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About this poet

Jenny Xie was born in Hefei, China, and raised in New Jersey. She holds degrees from Princeton University and New York University’s creative writing program, and has received fellowships and support from Kundiman, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and Poets & Writers.

Her debut poetry collection, Eye Level, was selected by Juan Felipe Herrera as the winner of the 2017 Walt Whitman Award, given by the Academy of American Poets, and was published by Graywolf Press in 2018. Eye Level is also a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry in 2018.

About Eye Level Herrera writes:

‘Between Hanoi and Sapa’ this collection begins and continues with its ‘frugal mouth’ that ‘spends the only foreign words it owns.’ This knowing ‘travels’ in a spiral-shaped wisdom. We go places; we enter multiple terrains of seeing; we cross cultural borders of time, voices, locations—of consciousness. Then—we notice we are in a trembling stillness with all beings and all things. Jenny Xie’s Eye Level is a timely collection of beauty, clarity, and expansive humanity.

Xie is the recipient of the 2016 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Prize for Nowhere to Arrive, and her poems appear in The New Republic, Tin House, Harvard Review, The Literary Review, Narrative, and elsewhere.

She lives in Brooklyn and teaches at New York University.

Ongoing

Never mind the distances traveled, the companion
she made of herself. The threadbare twenties not
to be underestimated. A wild depression that ripped
from January into April. And still she sprouts an appetite.
Insisting on edges and cores, when there were none.
Relationships annealed through shared ambivalences.
Pages that steadied her. Books that prowled her
until the hard daybreak, and for months after.
Separating new vows from the old, like laundry whites.
Small losses jammed together so as to gather mass.
Stored generations of filtered quietude.
And some stubbornness. Tangles along the way
the comb-teeth of the mind had to bite through, but for what.
She had trained herself to look for answers at eye level,
but they were lower, they were changing all the time.

From Eye Level (Graywolf Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Jenny Xie. Used with the permission of Graywolf Press.

From Eye Level (Graywolf Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Jenny Xie. Used with the permission of Graywolf Press.

Jenny Xie

Jenny Xie

Jenny Xie's debut poetry collection, Eye Level, was selected by Juan Felipe Herrera as the winner of the 2017 Walt Whitman Award, given by the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem

His tongue shorn, father confuses
snacks for snakes, kitchen for chicken.
It is 1992. Weekends, we paw at cheap
silverware at yard sales. I am told by mother
to keep our telephone number close,
my beaded coin purse closer. I do this.
The years are

2
poem

The lightest realizations arrive in restraint—
so the old masters tell us.

Not unlike the tug at the end of a line.
 

We have language for what is within reach
but not the mutable form behind it.

Or else, why write.
 

poem

The screens plant bulbs
of tension inward, but hit no nerves.

River of speechless current.
My gaze faces the screen, laps up

blue-eyed policemen in bloom
and a fat fog fanning out by the inch

across cities in eastern China.
Refresh for a politician yawning

wolfish