The Desert, by Brandon Shimoda
Brandon Shimoda’s The Desert, a sequel to his William Carlos Williams Award-winning book Evening Oracle, guides us deep into, and then back out of, a rich yet desolate North American landscape. Divided into seven sections--featuring poems, letters, diary entries, and photographs--the desert’s multiplicity emerges through a ranging exploration of its Japanese American incarceration sites, homeless population, flora and fauna, violence, beauty, and how it all combines to reflect this poet’s contemporary view of history. Written over three years in the deserts of Arizona, the poet introduces us to the souls of the living and dead, their shadows still residing over the landscape and its mythology.
This is a long odyssey through which Brandon permeates the world through its seemingly most inconsequential (therefore most essential) details. These "details" dispersed over the American desert include also his ancestors, and Hiroshima, for ever. The terror is made greater because it's encountered in the fable of a virgin land. He rather runs into prisons, labor-camps, migrants choking on thirst, under a "panoramic grave." The "criminalized body meets the traumatized season," that says it all in utmost clarity, earth and mind colliding in that agony. Brandon reaches a hallucinating intensity of vision, and a synthetic one, and we, "the people born missing," trekking after him, thanks to his courage which is driven by his incredible poetic powers, reach enlightenment, an enlightenment which, for the very rare times it ever happens, is always dressed in the sacred terror he conveys. -Etel Adnan
Brandon Shimoda was born in California. He is the author of Evening Oracle (Letter Machine Editions), which received the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and O Bon (Litmus Press), among other books. He lives in the desert.