Jenny Xie & Jennifer S. Cheng
Tuesday, May 22, 2018, 7:00 p.m., City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
Jenny Xie reading from her award winning poetry collection
published by Graywolf Press
Winner of the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, selected by Juan Felipe Herrera
Jennifer S. Cheng reading from
MOON: LETTERS, MAPS, POEMS
from Tarpaulin Press
About Eye Level:
Jenny Xie's award-winning debut, Eye Level, takes us far and near, to Phnom Penh, Corfu, Hanoi, New York, and elsewhere, as we travel closer and closer to the acutely felt solitude that centers this searching, moving collection. Animated by a restless inner questioning, these poems meditate on the forces that moor the self and set it in motion, from immigration to travel to estranging losses and departures. The sensual worlds here—colors, smells, tastes, and changing landscapes—bring to life questions about the self as seer and the self as seen. As Xie writes, "Me? I'm just here in my traveler's clothes, trying on each passing town for size." Her taut, elusive poems exult in a life simultaneously crowded and quiet, caught in between things and places, and never quite entirely at home. Xie is a poet of extraordinary perception—both to the tangible world and to "All that is untouchable as far as the eye can reach."
About Moon: Letters. Maps. Poems:
Mixing fable and fact, extraordinary and ordinary, Jennifer S. Cheng's hybrid collection, MOON: Letters, Maps, Poems, explores the 'feminine monstrous’ as it draws on various Chinese mythologies about women, particularly that of Chang’E (the Lady in the Moon), uncovering the shadow stories of our myths — with the belief that there is always an underbelly. MOON explores bewilderment and shelter, destruction and construction, unthreading as it rethreads, shedding as it collects.
In this exhilarating exploration, Cheng fashions an alt-epic for the 21st century, upending received ideas about poetic form and constructing from the debris a hybrid guide for an age of diaspora and displacement…. Experiences of unmooring and unsettling call for new maps; Cheng’s cartography works by myth and lyric, supposition and premonition, breathtaking abstraction and heartbreaking specificity…. As visionary as it is practical, Cheng’s rich and glorious book is a record of this precarious moment, a "brief and eternal standstill of a half-sunk world, half-rebirthed." — Publishers Weekly Starred Review
“What are the secret aspects of a book, which cannot be spoken of and that unfold in ways that nobody can describe to us in advance? In a world where ‘boundaries are slipping,’ what modes of metamorphosis now become possible? Can radical change be read as a ‘map of the body in motion’? I am interested in Cheng’s idea of story as the place where we come to ‘forget something, as much as remember.’ This is a formulation that precipitates the artifacts and deities of the book: ‘the logic of dust cloud, spiral.’ Everything that’s left behind. If reading is a form of pilgrimage, then Cheng gives us its charnel ground events, animal conversions, guiding figures and elemental life. ‘I want to mark a new map for a body opening,’ she writes, and then she does.” —Bhanu Kapil
“...What distinguishes this study of the Self in proximity to Other and to the World is the way Cheng refuses to tell stories and instead, insists on asking them. With curiosity and attention, MOON shines its light on inquiry as art, asking as making. In the tradition of Fanny Howe’s poetics of bewilderment, Cheng gives us a poetics of possibility.” —Jennifer Tseng
“Cheng’s newest poetry collection bravely tests language and the beautiful boundaries of body and geography. This is a rare poet whose elegant poems create a lovely convergence of geometries and mythologies into something akin to ‘an ocean fever to break between…teeth.’ The assembly of ‘insect script’ in these worlds where ‘the sky becomes a chilled pomelo’ makes for a rich and deeply satisfying read.” —Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Jenny Xie was born in Hefei, China, and raised in New Jersey. She holds degrees from Princeton University and New York University, and has received fellowships and support from Kundiman, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and Poets & Writers. She is the recipient of the 2017 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets for Eye Level and the 2016 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Prize for Nowhere to Arrive. Her poems have appeared in the American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, the New Republic, Tin House, and elsewhere. She teaches at New York University.
Jennifer S. Cheng’s second book, MOON: LETTERS, MAPS, POEMS, was selected by Bhanu Kapil as winner of the Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She is also the author of HOUSE A, selected by Claudia Rankine as winner of the Omnidawn Poetry Book Prize, and Invocation: An Essay, an image-text chapbook published by New Michigan Press. Her writing appears in Tin House, The Literary Hub, Conjunctions, The Normal School, Guernica, Hong Kong 20/20 (a PEN Hong Kong anthology), and elsewhere. She received fellowships and awards from Brown University, the University of Iowa, San Francisco State University, the U.S. Fulbright program, Kundiman, Bread Loaf, and the Academy of American Poets. Having grown up in Texas, Connecticut, and Hong Kong, she lives in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco. www.jenniferscheng.com