“Hydra Medusa,” Brandon Shimoda’s book of poetry, dreams and speculative talks, collected from the psychic detritus of living in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, has been published by Nightboat Books.

Brandon Shimoda

Part coping mechanism, part magical act, “Hydra Medusa” was composed while Shimoda was working five jobs and raising a child — during bus commutes, before bed, at sunrise. Encountering the ghosts of Japanese American ancestors, friends, children, and bodies of water, it asks: What is the desert but a site where people have died, are dying; are buried, unburied, memorialized, erased. Where they are trying, against and within the energy of it all, to contend with our inherited present — and to live.

Shimoda is a Yonsei poet/writer, and the author of eight books of poetry and prose, including “The Grave on the Wall” (an ancestral memoir, published by City Lights, 2019); “The Desert” (poetry and prose, published by The Song Cave, 2018), and “Evening Oracle” (poetry and prose, published by Letter Machine Editions, 2015), which received the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. He is the co-editor of retrospective collections of writings by poet/painters Etel Adnan and Wong May.

Shimoda’s essays on Japanese American incarceration have appeared widely, including in The Asian American Literary Review, Design Week Portland, Entropy, Hyperallergic, The Margins, The New Inquiry and Densho. He is also the curator of the Hiroshima Library, an itinerant reading room/collection of books on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He teaches at Colorado College.

“‘Hydra Medusa’ is stunning. Written partly by dream, partly by death, and wholly by a clarity born of deep spiritual and political reckoning, it traverses the ethics of being conventionally alive and inextricably bound to the dead. This is the continuation of a work by a poet who gets out of the way for poetry, who steps fully into it and vanishes.” — Solmaz Sharif

“This work’s incendiary material is living. It lives in the afterlife of disappearances, catastrophe, and alongside and with ghosts/ed life. Then again it lives in newness and true wonder. This is a book of wisdom, of dream-language, of the kind that only arrives in that afterlife of terror where people are transformed by dying and self design. Still/and, things bloom, we exist, the dead refuse.” — Dionne Brand

“Brandon Shimoda knows his way around the dead. He has summoned them, followed their lead, faced their despair, soothed them. Or was it the other way around? The poems and essays in ‘Hydra Medusa’ embody the irrevocable connection between the dead and the living, dreaming and wakefulness, past and present, writing and reading. Delicate and sharp, vociferous when need be, always incisive, these poems interrogate the proliferating terror of everyday life while veering, tenaciously and fiercely, even tenderly, toward the love, vigilance, and responsibility needed to keep our ancestors close and alive.” — Cristina Rivera Garza

“Hallucinatory, visionary, this is Brandon Shimoda’s ‘anti-memorial’ memorial to the ineluctable spectre of Pearl Harbour over 3 generations of Japanese Americans. Poetry is the vital signs of a language, whatever the cultural climate. How else is one to meet the petrifying gaze of history, in the form of the Hydra Medusa? I am grateful for this human document.” — Wong May

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