The poem “Jiu bian” 九辯 (Nine phases) in the Chuci 楚辭 (Elegies of Chu) is an influential and much-cited work of the Chinese literary tradition, but poses a special challenge for Western readers. It is attributed to a shadowy figure named Song Yu 宋玉 whose lacuna of a biography provides no useful context for reading it, so it is hard to identify the motives behind it or describe its original reception. Moreover, the poem is loosely structured and it is hard to identify any clear narrative arc, while at the level of individual lines it is frequently obscure, aside from a few brilliant passages at the beginning. Yet reading the entire poem as a whole, it is possible to make sense of it and appreciate its subtle communication of deep emotions, even if it appears incoherent by some objective criteria. The author of a new translation of the entire anthology discusses the process of translating the piece, and how he came better to appreciate its meaning in a series of stages. Like the long, repetitive, and circular poem itself, the process of translation is a process that requires multiple attempts, each of which is incomplete and yet provides a new glimpse of the work as a whole.