In this collection chosen by former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera for the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, Jenny Xie ponders the sights and sounds of life in New York, her travels in Asia, and the experience of growing up as a Chinese immigrant in New Jersey.
This is a book about the necessity of toggling between the enchantments of the page and the allure of the horizon: Xie’s 'appetite for elsewhere' competes with a longing for the 'infinite places within language to hide.' The poems dazzle in their local details, even as they pine for global reach and scale ... Xie comes across as a magician of perspective and scale, troubled by her own virtuosic illusions. Through Xie’s eyes, we can see the binds and paradoxes of being stuck inside a single point of view. When you’re at eye level with another person, however, you can be briefly prodded out of solipsism: you see yourself being seen ... Eye Level with worldly landmarks and private discoveries, mapped routes and circuitous thoughts, suggests a kind of Fodor’s or Lonely Planet guide to inner life ... Xie’s swallowed commands, shorn of their predicates, suggest that the rules of her art cannot be codified.
...an exquisite interrogation of perspective and selfhood but also reaches out to something more elusive — the troubled way language can isolate and put up borders. Casting her gaze near and far, it’s the way Xie records minutiae that breaks down these walls, actively inviting us to partake in her witnessing ... Expanding into scenes of everyday life, Xie’s compressive language breaks open with humility. Still, when Xie does choses opacity over clarity, her language shifts and swells like organic moods ... Xie’s ability to invite us along, witness to both beauty and mystery, is astonishing. At times she keeps her distance, but rightfully so ... Xie reminds us there’s always another sentence our minds can write, always another moment of bewilderment heading our way.
To call Xie’s collection a meditation would be an understatement. Eye Level is a nomad’s mind in transit. The book is told through a series of vignettes in a time away and alone ... Xie compels the reader to look inward and look widely ... Xie’s collection is a reminder that the beauty of the present is that we are now offered the opportunity to provide language to what we once couldn’t articulate ... Eye Level is the message in the bottle brimming with tender love letters to anyone who's been found without a home.