In 2018, Paisley Rekdal was commissioned to write a poem commemorating the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental's completion. The result is West: A Translation, a hybrid collection of poems and lyric essays that respond to an anonymous Chinese poem carved into the walls of the Angel Island Immigration Station where Chinese migrants to the U.S. were detained during the Chinese Exclusion Act. This poem, part of a dialogic pair written in Chinese, elegizes a fellow detainee who committed suicide at Angel Island. West translates this elegy character by character through the lens of Chinese and other railroad workers' histories, and through the railroad's cultural impact on America. Through its multiple voices, literary forms and visual documents, West explores what unites and divides America, and how our ideas about American history crawl forward, even as the nation itself threatens to spiral backwards.




Longlisted for the 2023 National Book Award in Poetry

Winner of the 2024 Kingsley Tufts Prize 

Winner of the 2024 Reading the West Poetry Prize

NPR's "Books We Love 2023" Selection

Library Journal's Best Poetry of 2023 

Starred Booklist review

Starred Publisher's Weekly review

The Rumpus Poetry Book Club Pick, May 2023

 The Millions "Must-Read Poetry," Spring 2023

Utah's Great Reads from Great Places selection,

National Book Festival 2023, Library of Congress


West is accompanied by a website, whose interactive, non-linear structure allows readers to compose their own translation of the Chinese elegy.


MEDIAPoetry International, The RumpusThe Georgia Review conversation with Julia H. Lee, Library Journal, Poetry, Enjambments, Poetry Foundation: Poetry Off the Shelf, LitHub, Poets & Writers, Los Angeles Review of Books, Fence Digital, Check Your Shelves Podcast, Interlocutor, Good River, Southwest Contemporary"Race and the Railroad."