Dream of the Divided Field

(Poetry; paperback, $16)

Buy at IndieboundBookshop, or Penguin Random House, among other places.


Finalist for the 2022 New England Indie Booksellers Association Prize in Poetry


From an award-winning poet comes a collection on heartbreak and transitions, written with a piercing lyric ferocity

In his latest book, Yanyi’s poems suggest we enter and exit our old selves like homes. We look through the windows and recognize some former aspect of our lives that is both ours and isn’t. We long for what we had even as we recognize that we can no longer live there. Yanyi conjures the beloved both within and without us: the beloved we believe we know, the beloved who is never who we imagine, and the beloved who threatens to erase us even as we stand before them.

How can we carry our homes with us? Informed by Yanyi’s experiences of immigration, violent heartbreak, and a bodily transition, Dream of the Divided Field explores the contradictions that accompany shifts from one state of being to another. In tender, serene, and ethereal poems, Dream of the Divided Field examines a body breaking down, and a body that rebuilds in limitless and boundary-shifting ways. These are homes in memory—homes of love and isolation, lust and alienation, tenderness and violence, suffering and wonder.


Yanyi is a poet whose ambitions are soul-deep and startlingly poignant: to know the self as forever broken and to know language as the exquisite fiction of our wholeness. In his superb second book, Dream of the Divided Field, he recounts the dissolution of a relationship with heartbreaking clarity, revealing how the desire for reconstitution – of love, self, and world – is necessarily impossible. Yanyi knows intimately that as with the inconstancy of the lyric—queered, fragmentary, transcultural, transhistorical, pastoral, erotic, containing nothing and everything—thinking and feeling open us to the unknown and to others. Thus, the broken self is dispersed like the birds that “fly apart and grow their understanding.” To love is to be inside and outside the self, to enter the world and let the world enter you, and how glorious it is to read a book that so bravely takes you everywhere.

—Jennifer Chang, author of Some Say the Lark

Here is a book of the body, a book like no other: tender, and eloquent, a singing across borders, across silences. What does it mean? It means that Dream of the Divided Field is a kind of a book that you can't just talk about, you simply got to quote whole poems. For instance, this one: "I woke up with so much love for you / It doesn't matter where I am // I am making eggs // The sun is warming my just-shaved head / like your hand when sometimes / it rests there." This is because Yanyi is a terrific poet, one who's written for us a book to read when we wake in the middle of the night and need a voice that is filled with longing, and truth, delight of being, despite all the painful odds.

—Ilya Kaminsky, author of Dancing in Odessa and Deaf Republic

What does it mean, for each of us to be housed in a body? What is a body, but a thing to be entered and exited? In this collection of poems, Yanyi writes through leaving the body over and over, leaving the old selves behind , old relationships, old pains to birth into newness. Yanyi contends with what disappears and what stays, where we inhabit, where we can find safety, where we can be found. A beautiful book that brings you in, that holds you close.

—Fatimah Asghar, author of If They Come For Us

Not only is the field divided in these poems, it is deeply layered through a kaleidoscopic double exposure. “The body reinventing itself became again its own mystic,” Yanyi declares in this intimate and vulnerable book. There is a before and an after: the before revealed in the memory of love and the memory of a body; and the after, a metamorphosis both corporeal and spiritual. The poems are translucent, each informs the next and echoes back - concealment followed by joyous visibility, division followed by integration, and ultimately grief transformed into a luminous reconfiguration of the self.

—Samuel Ace, author of Meet Me There

A world of binaries (alive/dead, alone/together, day/night) has always been a frame – a limit to our imaginations. In order to understand oneself as separate (or separated), one must bring to mind (body, heart) the other to which one is no longer attached. In this way, there is togetherness in separation – the tether is reiterated (especially while under revision) to what was. And so how necessary, tender to experience the ever expanding multiplicity of Yanyi’s exquisite Dream of the Divided Field, where we are reminded that the rain is different/each step from the moon. Even the architecture is alive with memory, which is to say possibility. In poems that are simultaneously spare and teeming, determined and soft - my scars enabling me to be doubly alive - Yanyi does the patient, transcendent work of building a life larger than its loss. How grateful I am to this poet (a guide) who has shown me how to stay for a time in the irreparably gapped in order to become the building (the becoming) itself.

—TC Tolbert, co-editor Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics

Tender, alternately stark and mysterious, these poems offer a calling, a summoning, a dwelling – while also attending to wounds, scars, landscape, and surges of joy. Here, amidst glorious aubades and versions of Catullus and Sappho, are intimations of a failed love, and of other impasses: a field once shared, now divided, opens onto a field of inquiry. The way one is beheld and beholds is here tested and sung. These are poems as complex homing devices; they explore shelter, alienation, micro-shifts in relation, sudden gusts of love. Yanyi’s work is paradoxically earthily transcendental, concretely visionary. These poems move toward and through transformation. Moving between delicate lyric and poetic essai, Yanyi charts in his tremendous second book new paths for a poetry both embodied and metaphysical. Taking up one of the oldest aims of poetry, Dream of the Divided Field casts from its first pages a distinctive spell. It is as if the atmosphere of one’s mind acquired a new coloration, or found itself an instrument newly and differently tuned.

—Maureen McLane, author of More Anon: Selected Poems

"Can I come in? No, I whisper with a voice I don’t have anymore," Yanyi writes in his new collection. That interdiction weakens as soon as it is uttered; it can’t hold back the intrusions of memory, of family and lovers who insist on coming in with their own ways of seeing, their judgment or prejudice. These are to the all-seeing speaker a curse, an illumination, an opportunity, a resignation—in unequal, unpredictable measure. Perhaps as an act of survival, the speaker seems to be in all places and times at once. The kaleidoscopic vision of the poems creates a disorienting logic that animates and transforms the ordinary world, investigating the limits and multiplicities of a self.

—Saskia Hamilton, editor of The Dolphin Letters, 1970-1979: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell, and Their Circle


If you are interested in a press copy for a review or interview, or are considering the book for your classes, please reach out to Carla Bruce at Penguin Random House (ceddings [at] penguinrandomhouse [dot] com). For anything else, check out my contact page.

Dream of the Divided Field