Wednesday, March 22, 2017



NINE DRAGON ISLAND by Eleanor Goodman
(Zephyr Press, Brookline, MA, 2017)

Shades of darkness linger within its pages, almost ironic given the lovely—even pretty!—shade of turquoise blue covering this elegantly-designed book. But perhaps those lingering emotional shades are what make the poems art—from those causes of, and meditations on, darkness surface the moving power that make the reader linger over the poems in Eleanor Goodman’s NINE DRAGON ISLAND.

Goodman is a writer and translator of Chinese literature and NINE DRAGON ISLAND reflects her familiarity with China:

The men at the end
Of the street sold his unruly emus
The neighborhood’s most exotic collection
—from “Harvest”

Around the corner at midnight the recyclers get to work
Rooting in the heat through rotting cardboard
Anmd unrottable bottles
Their hands form conveyor belts
Sending the useless to one side
And the reusable to another

this is midnight in front of the public toilet
—from “Six-Foot Chopsticks”

As discernible from the above, Goodman’s skilled observations enhance her poetry. It’s a skill ever more useful for her plumbing the at times more-difficult-to-understand: human relationships. There are poems about divorce, cancer, adultery, relationships with a father and a mother … such that, if only by the book’s title, the reader is alerted to China’s presence but it’s also obvious that Goodman is an expert on writing about anything or many things human. It’s best that Goodman’s poems speak on their own behalf, so let me open the book at random—a random choice is significant as there isn’t a weak poem in the entire book—to share a poem in its totality:

The above poem (click on the poem to enlarge) and excerpts help explain why, with no effort, I lingered over the words I read. I recommend, but perhaps with a glass of wine—literally or metaphorically—to ease their haunting effects. 

NINE DRAGON ISLAND is Goodman’s first book of original poems and makes me conclude: Eleanor Goodman is a poet to watch.


Eileen Tabios is the editor of Galatea ResurrectsHer 2017 poetry releases include two books, two booklets, a novella-in-verse, and five poetry chaps. Forthcoming later this year is a new poetry collection, MANHATTAN: An Archaeology (Paloma Press). For 2017, she also edited the anthologies PUNETA: Political Pilipinx Poetry and Menopausal Hay(na)ku for P-Grubbers. More info at

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