Poetry News

Brandon Shimoda's The Girl Without Arms

By Harriet Staff

Leif Haven, writing for HTMLGiant, reviews Brandon Shimoda's 2011 book, The Girl Without Arms (Black Ocean). Haven notes that "the syntax itself is surreal." More:

Sometimes The Girl Without Arms feels like a poetry devoid of people. Like it sprung from the earth elementally, without being crafted by anyone or like it’s what’s left after all the people are gone. Sometimes it feels austere and lonely. There is a kind of transcendence in the small, the slightly off diction, the twisted cadences and syntax.

“The boats
Do not move.
There are no people
Like it.”

In some sections it’s as if the people that might exist are so minimal as to be hard to notice. The little ecologies of Shimoda’s short unpredictable stanzas are aesthetically charged and abstract; they are essential tiny interrelated linguistic artifacts that seem to stand independent of time or context. Shimoda’s words tend to connote more than denote.

On the back of the book Tomaz Salamun calls Shimoda an Ur-being. That’s insane and hilarious. I will give him credit for being a poet but I’ve never met him so I don’t know about an Ur-Being. One point in the text that I keep turning to is this section of “Occasion Of The Massive”:

“To eat your partner to the brain
And be suffocated by the impossibility that the terrifyingly inert mass of
Wet coral is what loves you
Is to fear
What makes you continue pulling the rest of your partner’s organs
With your teeth
In spit of the original desire to barter breath”

“Occasion Of The Massive” does at least two separate things. The haggard beatification of cannibalism is both beautiful and terrifying and probably one because of the other. The horrific desire for consummation of union through consumption literally or figuratively is paired actually with the horror of materialism. The narrator confronts the fact that brain, a physical blob of “terrifyingly inert mass” is what consciousness is; that “is what loves you.”

Read the full review.

Originally Published: December 10th, 2012