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Eleanor Goodman is a writer and translator. She is a Research Associate at the Fairbank Center at Harvard University and spent a year at Peking University on a Fulbright Fellowship. Her book of translations, Something Crosses My Mind, by Wang Xiaoni was the recipient of a 2013 PEN/Heim Translation Grant. Goodman has been an artist in residence at the American Academy in Rome, was awarded a Henry Luce Translation Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center and received the International Merit Award in Poetry from the Atlanta Review. Her work appears in publications such as PN ReviewThe Quarterly ConversationFictionPathlightChaThe GuardianPleiadesAcumenPerihelionThe Los Angeles Review and on The Best American Poetry web site.

Something Crosses My Mind

Zephyr Press
2015 Shortlist
United States

Judges’ Citation

What is so attractive about Wang Xiaoni’s poems as translated into English by Eleanor Goodman is her quiet, loving, meditative distance to the mostly anonymous and lonely heroes she clearly knows well.

What is so attractive about Wang Xiaoni’s poems as translated into English by Eleanor Goodman is her quiet, loving, meditative distance to the mostly anonymous and lonely heroes she clearly knows well. And her attitude to time, which she keeps dragging out of its anchored localities (and barely marked history) to extend and connect, or fuse with specific spaces that she also enlarges in size and scope. Moments prolong into a century or a life, imaginary beasts meld with real animals, description becomes an act of meditation. In a few lines, a village can take on the dimension of a vast landscape – and yet still remain that particular village. And while Xiaoni’s characters may not speak, they seem to have a real insight into our experience and lives. In a way nothing much happens in her magic lyricism: the wind blows, the ocean rises, people work or move from one place to another, or wait, or just leave some place, and they have souls (which behave like shadows); someone on a journey sees them, through the window, between one landscape and another, and it’s difficult to know why all this is so moving. Reading her, I found myself repeating Auden’s phrase “About suffering they were never wrong, / The old Masters.” Wang Xiaoni is a terrific contemporary poet gracefully extending the great classical Chinese tradition.