cover image The Desert

The Desert

Brandon Shimoda. Song Cave, $17.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-9988290-6-7

The prolific Shimoda follows his William Carlos Williams Award–winning Evening Oracle with a marathon-length elegy that troubles his ancestors and himself in order to answer the question “Can you live in the desert?” These narrative poems collage trenchant memories (the poet’s and others’), diary entries, surreal and cinematic imagery, photographs, observations, and the poetics of place to argue that, for better or for worse, the historical cannot be changed but only reckoned with. In “Mountains,” Shimoda considers a chocolate chip cookie at the site of a WWII-era Japanese internment camp in Missouri where his grandfather Midori Shimoda was incarcerated: “The chocolate chip cookie/ May or may not/ Seem arbitrary/ Even when it is being served It is the grail/ That lubricates a tourist/ In the opaque eye of prison labor.” Ruthlessly self-aware, Shimoda generates humor and intensity through the tension of seemingly impossible: “Just now, biking back from the library, an ambulance drove over a book. Right before it drove over the book, it turned off its siren, but kept its whirling lights on. The book was CAUGHT, then grew like a moth.” Whether making a self-effacing remark or bubbling over with rage, Shimoda formidably contextualizes his own life as he probes the nuances of daily life. (Sept.)