Flood Song

Overview

"Sherwin Bitsui's new poetry collection, Flood Song—a sprawling, panoramic journey through landscape, time, and cultures—is well worth the ride."—Poets & Writers

“Bitsui’s poetry is elegant, probative, and original. His vision connects worlds.”—New Mexico Magazine

“His images can tilt on the side of surrealism, yet his work can be compellingly accessible.”—Arizona Daily Star

Sherwin Bitsui sees violent ...

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Overview

"Sherwin Bitsui's new poetry collection, Flood Song—a sprawling, panoramic journey through landscape, time, and cultures—is well worth the ride."—Poets & Writers

“Bitsui’s poetry is elegant, probative, and original. His vision connects worlds.”—New Mexico Magazine

“His images can tilt on the side of surrealism, yet his work can be compellingly accessible.”—Arizona Daily Star

Sherwin Bitsui sees violent beauty in the American landscape. There are junipers, black ants, axes, and cities dragging their bridges. I can hear Whitman's drums in these poems and I can see Ginsberg's supermarkets. But above all else, there is an indigenous eccentricity, ‘a cornfield at the bottom of a sandstone canyon,’ that you will not find anywhere else.”—Sherman Alexie

Native traditions scrape against contemporary urban life in Flood Song, an interweaving painterly sequence populated with wrens and reeds, bricks and gasoline. Poet Sherwin Bitsui is at the forefront of a new generation of Native writers who resist being identified solely by race. At the same time, he comes from a traditional indigenous family and Flood Song is filled with allusions to Dine (Navajo) myths, customs, and traditions. Highly imagistic and constantly in motion, his poems draw variously upon medicine song and contemporary language and poetics. “I map a shrinking map,” he writes, and “bite my eyes shut between these songs.” An astonishing, elemental volume.

I retrace and trace over my fingerprints
Here: magma,
there: shore,

and on the peninsula of his finger pointing west—
a bell rope woven from optic nerves
is tethered to mustangs galloping from a nation lifting its first page
through the man hole—burn marks in the saddle horn,
static in the ear that cannot sever cries from wailing.

Sherwin Bitsui’s acclaimed first book of poems, Shapeshift, appeared in 2003. He has earned many honors for his work, including fellowships from the Witter Bynner Foundation and Lannan Foundation, and he is frequently invited to poetry festivals throughout the world. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
"I bite my eyes shut between these songs" says Bitsui in the first poem in this harsh and beautiful collection. What follows is intently imagined poetry, visceral, imagistic, sometimes angry, always emotionally rapt, that explores Bitsui's Native heritage and the landscape of the American West. These poems hit you in the face, but you owe it to yourself not to duck.
Publishers Weekly
This second book by Bitsui (Shapeshift) comprises a sequence of untitled fragmentary lyrics, which, taken together, form a long poem that is part stream-of-consciousness road movie of the Southwest and part visionary investigation of personal memory. In it, Bitsui attempts to extend and break with the traditions of Native American writing. Bitsui's is a world in which one's connection to the land is inevitably interrupted by centuries of merciless treatment and by the trappings of modern life. In one poem he laments, “You think you can return to that place/ where your mother held her sleeves above the rising tides/ saying, 'We are here again/ on the road covered with television snow; we are here again/ the song has thudded.' ” Throughout, Bitsui straddles borders between a long history and postmodern aesthetics: “the final chapter of this one-room story/ smells disfigured.” This is a powerful collection from a promising young poet. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Poets in general seek to create an oeuvre defined more by its aesthetic merits than its affiliation with a certain culture or heritage, and that's what Bitsui (Shapeshift) is striving admiringly to do here. His new book-length work uses his Native American heritage and experience as a lightning rod for writing poetry that goes beyond provincialism to create a diverse and rich poetic landscape. His poetry is seeded with all the peculiarities of Native tales of love and loss as well as with modern life issues. Bitsui juxtaposes the abstract with the physical in condensed, lively language. He also incorporates photographic technique to create fast, apocalyptic scenes: "a twig yanked from the nervous eye of a dying bull." The passage from surreal images to more realistic ones is transparent and smooth: "What happened when gunfire blew into their speech/ and left one language hanging by a nail" and "the mud-covered hooves of drought/ kicking at the rain-stained earth." VERDICT Bitsui's poetry returns things to their basic elements and voice in a flowing language rife with illuminating images. A great reading experience for those who like serious and innovative poetry.—Sadiq Alkoriji, South Regional Lib., Broward Cty., FL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556593086
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2009
  • Pages: 120
  • Sales rank: 713,809
  • Product dimensions: 6.98 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 0.28 (d)

Meet the Author


Sherwin Bitsui was born in 1975 in Fort Defiance, Arizona. He is Diné (Navajo) and has a profound connection to his culture. His acclaimed first book of poems, Shapeshift, appeared in 2003. He has been honored by the Witter Bynner Foundation, and his work has appeared widely, including American Poet, The Iowa Review, Frank, and Red Ink.
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