Poem of the Week: Ongoing
Asian American poet Jenny Xie was born in China, raised in New Jersey, and now lives in New York City. Her debut book of poetry, Eye Level, won the 2017 Walt Whitman Award and was nominated for the 2018 National Book Award. Quite early accomplishments at the start of a career! The New Yorker noted of her first collection that it is a "sightseers' guide to the self," combining local detail and global reach. The book follows many of her travels, which interestingly brings her both as a Chinese immigrant to America and then a Chinese American back to Asia, showing how poetry at its best can toy with perceptions and probe inner self, external space, and the inevitable overlap between the two. The following poem, "Ongoing," comes from Eye Level - what will hopefully be one of many volumes of poetry from Xie.
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.
- Jenny Xie
From Eye Level: poems