Sunday, November 23, 2008
Microwavable Review: Brandon Shimoda's "The Inland Sea"
The Inland Sea is 450 km (280 mi) long from east to west. The width from south to north varies from 15 to 55 km (9.3 to 34 mi). In most places, the water is relatively shallow. The average depth is 37.3 m (122 ft); the greatest depth is 105 m (344 ft). It is also the kick-ass new chapbook by Brandon Shimoda.
Beautifully written, the book basically comes down to this: Shimoda's poems fill in the steps left between our history and our present. Well, specifically his history and his present, but the desire to do so is quite universal. Shimoda's book begins with the recognition that we often know nothing of ourselves/our fore-bearers, and what we do know is usually the Sparknotes version, and that this is unacceptable: "makes no difference in times like these/ without bothering to unfold the map/ or take it from its sleeve..." From this point, Shimoda is writing a history worthy of the circumstances.
The nuts and bolts of the book are just as equally admirable. These poems, like the stories they tell, are reconstructions, much like that second set of instructions that come with LEGO sets. The pieces are all still there, and what they make is something new, but acutely familiar. There are little rhythmic runs in the poems that remind us of Coleridge. There are bits that read like haiku. There is even some flash fiction thrown in for good measure. What's significant about this though, is the emphasis it puts, purposefully or not, on how we express narratives, and perhaps more so, the weight we put on one type over another: What makes a credible narrative?
Shimoda's book is full of very beautiful things, even the tragedy of atomic warfare is made beautiful, as can be seen in the poem, IRRADIANT, "In one week from now/ you will be seen anew/ though the light will catch/ you incorrectly." Many poets color violence in pretty shades of pink and yellow in order to talk about it, but Shimoda ups the game not by simply making it prettier, no, he goes out and makes it more interesting. The result? We stop and consider these events all the more. We make them ours. Their effects becoming a part of our consciousnesses, our lives.
Well played, Brandon Shimoda, well played...