Wang Xiaoni has published five books of poetry and been honored with numerous awards, including the Ann Gao Poetry Prize in 1999, and the Chinese Literature Media Award in 2004. Her work is known for its keen detail and explication of everyday life. Something Crosses My Mind, published in China in 2008, spans twenty years of her writing.
Perhaps it is poets most of the world who require the most protection from it. Wang Xiaoni is nothing if not grounded in China—its people, its fauna and flora, its politics. Yet to have that world look in on her is a nightmare. Even more, it is a betrayal of the compact the poet has made with the world: to live in it as a stranger, but to give it full life on the page. This agreement at times infuses Wang’s work with an almost mystical sense of estrangement.
That is not to say that Wang Xiaoni is a poet with her head in the stars. Rather, she is grounded in the earth: she writes of potatoes and peanuts, scarecrows and corn. The animals in her poems are water buffalo, pigs and sheep. What interests her most is people and how they relate to their natural and unnatural environment. The unnatural environment is the one created by man: politics, economics, social hierarchies, inequalities. These issues are addressed, but subtly. They appear in her poems about the countryside and the implied social inequities therein, in her observations of severe environmental degradation, in her metaphors of wounds and bones, in her abandoned fields and defiled mountains.
—from the translator’s introduction
A key figure of the post-70s Chinese poets, Wang Xiaoni was born in Changchun, Jilin in 1955, and spent seven years as a laborer in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. In 1977, she was accepted into the Chinese Department at Jilin University, and in 1985 she moved to Shenzhen. She has worked as a film script editor and college professor. Her publications include more than twenty-five books of poetry, essays, and novels.
Eleanor Goodman is a writer and a translator from Chinese. She is a Research Associate at the Fairbank Center at Harvard University, and spent a year at Peking University on a Fulbright Fellowship. Something Crosses My Mind was the recipient of a 2013 PEN/Heim Translation Fund.
Something Crosses My Mind, by Wang Xiaoni
Something Crosses My Mind
from Chinese by Eleanor Goodman
ISBN 978-1-938890-06-2 (paper)
6 x 8
128 pages [Bilingual Chinese/English]
Listen to Wang Xiaoni and Eleanor Goodman read at the Griffin Poetry Prize gala
From one of China’s most important poets after 1980, this is a stunning book of poetry, a poetry that is characterized by electric honesty and acute observation. In these pages, we hear Wang Xiaoni’s candid and penetrating voice about contemporary China—all through her quiet but powerful verse. The translator Eleanor Goodman, herself a wonderful poet, should be congratulated for her brilliant translation.
—Kang-i Sun Chang, Malcolm G. Chace ’56 Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures, Yale University
Wang Xiaoni is a revered Chinese poet who has been writing since her teens. Over the decades, her poetry has grown more resonant, marked with striking images and extraordinary associations, and characterized by a quiet personal voice. The poems in this volume embody a distinct sensibility and a major achievement. Eleanor Goodman’s exacting translation makes them a pure pleasure to read and reread.