cover image Master


Simon Shieh. Sarabande, $17.95 trade paper (90p) ISBN 978-1-956046-21-2

The phenomenal debut from Shieh is a stark and extraordinary investigation of a painful past, traversing the intricacies of violence and the journey toward healing. The poems travel from an Upstate New York martial arts school to a boxing academy in Beijing, tracking the speaker’s complicated relationship with masculinity while tackling personal trauma and the process of writing as a means of articulating and comprehending these experiences. “These poems are not about what happened to me; they are about the process of writing about what happened to me,” Shieh explains in the book’s “Notes.” Throughout, he emphasizes writing’s transformational power. “Mythomania” opens, “I imagine him reading this / telling me none of it happened... There is the story, and there is that which the story is constructed to hide. Of/ course, I want to side with neither—.” He later writes, “I inscribe an image into the poem. In return, it inscribes a revelation into me.” These memorable verses illustrate how writing may serve as both a refuge and a form of resistance, acknowledging the power of language to transform and heal. (Sept.)