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The poems in Portuguese began while Brandon rode city buses around Seattle, and were inspired by his fellow passengers—their voices and their minds, their faces and their bodies, their exuberances and infirmities, and the ways in which they enlivened and darkened the days at once. It was with and within these people that poetry seemed most alive. At the same time, they began as responses to the words and writings of visual artists, mostly painters, whom Brandon was reading while riding the bus, especially Etel Adnan, Eugène Delacroix, Alberto Giacometti, Paul Klee, and Joan Mitchell, all of whom appear in the book. It was with and within these people, also, that poetry seemed most alive.

In both senses, Portuguese is a work of color.

Portuguese owes also a debt to a visit to Beirut, Lebanon (2009); six months spent in a cabin in the woods of western Maine (2010-2011); and the Japanese poets Kazuko Shiraishi, Ryuichi Tamura and Minoru Yoshioka, and their translators. It was written primarily in Seattle, Washington; Beirut, Lebanon; and Weld, Maine, though revised in Albany, California; Beacon, New York; and St. Louis, Missouri. In that sense, Portuguese is a travelogue, as well as a work of restlessness.

Throughout writing the poems that became Portuguese, the presiding struggle was with poetry itself—the form and its impulses—voice and mind, face and body, exuberance and infirmity—as well as with the act of writing. The book actually began in the early 1980s, while on the bus to elementary school in a small town in New England, when Brandon was taunted for being “Portuguese.” In that sense, Portuguese returns its author to this moment in which he felt challenged to become what he was being called, however falsely, and despite feeling confused, flushed and afraid. In that sense, Portuguese is a work of crossdressing.

However, Portuguese is both more and less than all these things. It was—and is—a way to keep up with life in the form of drawing observations and feelings on paper, and to give form to the energy making up some part of memory. It is the fourth book in a series that began with The AlpsThe Girl Without Arms, and O Bon. In this sense—and in all those above—it is an act of preservation, and therefore a work for his friends, his family, and for love.
  • Page Count: 100
  • Direct Price: 11.20
  • List Price: 14.00
  • March 2013
  • 978-1-935639-52-7
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Brandon Shimoda is the author of four books of poetry, including Portuguese (Tin House Book/Octopus), O Bon (Litmus Press, 2011), The Girl Without Arms (Black Ocean, 2011), and The Alps (Flim Forum, 2008)—among other solo and collaborative works in print, on cassette, online and on vinyl. He is currently co-editing, with poet Thom Donovan, a retrospective collection of writings by Lebanese-American poet Etel Adnan (Nightboat Books, forthcoming). He was born in California, and has lived most recently in Maine, Taiwan, and Arizona. He maintains some part of himself at vispoetica.tumblr.com.

"Portuguese is an enthralling testament to a creative mind beset upon on all sides by attempts at calcification and deleterious circumscription. . . .Portuguese earns its grandeur with a grandeur of spirit that is nearly unparalleled in contemporary verse. Shimoda's lines are by turns gracefully aphoristic and effortlessly metonymic; they transcend their subject--the author himself--by dint of their intelligence, sensitivity, and spiritual awareness. . . .It is not too much to say that Shimoda is writing, somehow, impossibly, the universal autobiography of a nation. . . .Very highly recommended." —HUFFINGTON POST 


"[Portuguese] is, indeed, both strange and marvelous."—Franzine


"Witty to no end, Brandon Shimoda writes smart-ass hipster poems." —NewPages


"That day, as the sun was hallucinating, a non-Portuguese boy was being born, and all we know is that he's a poet who brings that sun back to us." —ETEL ADNAN

"Brandon is who I would dream up as a brother if he wasn’t mine already." —KELLY SHIMODA

"Brandon Shimoda seems to be an Ur-being, a totally new creature." —TOMAZ ŠALAMUN

"Brandon Shimoda is my favorite living lyric." —MATHIAS SVALINA

"Brandon Shimoda is a poet “OF CREATION,” of Heimweh, a “main event,” a restive-decadent bus rider of nostos and algos—is these and also: Portuguese."


"Brandon Shimoda wants to go to Portugal, where the snow is imaginary and the streets are almost real." —BHANU KAPIL

“In a temporary world” there is only one Brandon Shimoda who can 'Rationalize poetry by embodying it before me' and simultaneously  'Rake the fragments of bone'.” —LAYNIE BROWNE


"This poet keeps himself within his own gaze, as the child keeps in vision the man he has yet to become, and the poems he has written emerge with a form of sight that reaches inward as far as it reaches outward, self's innermost history to this outward moment we call 'now.'" —DAN BEACHY-QUICK

"Looking into the young Brandon Shimoda’s eyes I see in a starless night sky the full moon circling." —DOT DEVOTA

"Unless that's a bird on his head, he's stolen my hair—makes you wonder about a lot of things." —BRENT HENDRICKS

"These poems are what a person might think before slipping into grey dream-visions of their own unborn children."—CYNTHIA ARRIEU-KING

"Brandon Shimoda's poetry is the most perfect peridot stone sparkling with sharp edges in the daylight." —NOELLE KOCOT

"The mysteries of poesis are exacerbated, enlivened, and somehow fevered in Portuguese—and without Brandon aShimoda's efforts the scope of American poetry itself would be diminished starkly." —JOSHUA MARIE WILKINSON

"Sometimes there is a poet in service to deliver everything you want to taste in the world. Brandon Shimoda is such a poet."—CACONRAD

"Brandon Shimoda has she-she’d a crèche of earthly delights vastly libidinal: ravishing, ceremonial word formations, not withstanding the presence of wrath like a raw cake, sponging. BRENDA IIJIMA. Brandon Shimoda: He's SWAMP." —BRANDON DOWNING

"I smell the peat of old woods; two boys & diesel in shallow cups, two girls & bone in twiggy beds." —SAMUEL ACE

"Brandon’s is the heroic mechanism which will make everyone love each other with greater truth and intensity, because he lays an equal hive, mouth to mouth to mouth." —FARNOOSH FATHI


"Yes: in Brandon Shimoda's work poems become further worlds and not vice versa." —KARENA YOUTZ

"Brandon's restlessness translates into disruptive, migratory syntax that defies identity, its logic."—DON MEE CHOI

"Here he is again, Shimoda, weaving, wiring, rigging the "gentle wrath of home" into all things." —ANTHONY HAWLEY

"Brandon Shimoda did not write this book, he wrestled it from the bad, holy woman standing in the purple vetch." —ROB SCHLEGEL


"I wish these poems had not been written." —PHIL CORDELLI

Sample Poem

The Killing Fields

Because it has been days it has been years
Of new space new space being water
Organisms feel it work it
Moist growths of a new head space conjunctions of a skull
Are here—they are right here
We look at skulls and feel unsettled—skulls are right here
Anything we don’t need to step outside ourselves to be in the company of
Unsettles us from the thing we have left
The thing we are looking at
Smoke over a field
I wrote a book with a white cover it went to the hill of the poisonous trees
Children were following my retarded stepbrother around the fields
He very shallowly appreciated them following him I observed
And felt to be worse than outright disgust
Here’s a broom—Pick it up Drag it across your hands and feet
He should have given at least
A corner of the truth then
Sat me down and asked if I loved him
I am the broom I said I do not know you pulling your pants down
Will not help me to know you—He asked me
To explain a poem I had written about my father
He had found fussing in my father’s sock drawer
For snacks—I gazed through his eyes to the gleam
Of the metal plate in his head, said simply
Read the poem but then realized
His defect—he did not believe in a world outside of the world of the present
Moment and therefore in the possibility of being
In two places simultaneously not only
Did he not but he barely
Possessed the courage to believe
In the world of the present moment
Therefore in the possibility of being in even one therefore in anything
Imagination is driven by
An an-heroic sliver—not always light always light
An acid element suffocating that which is other than
Precisely what is and barely even
That therefore everything real
In its first however fatal dimension—acid element forged
By hand to fit
As wide as possible the head, and in that sense I actually loved him
Though I wanted to put him
Wholesale into a blender and drink him
On the day my father and mother married—August 25, 1972
Grindelwald, Switzerland, the Alps they celebrated
With a tin of anchovies and a bottle of orange soft drink
On a hill overlooking the village, that is
The world I believe in the world I replicate in the world that is passing
Where also a Cambodian princess
Mauled by a dog is falling eternally in love with my retarded stepbrother
I convinced her to she was falling in love with me
I did not need her love then I did not need love then
Does a hermaphrodite have eyes? A hermaphrodite looks back on itself
To perceive an occasion for proper vengeance
Girl Man drink more eat more grass
Rationalize poetry by embodying it before me—innocent and thirsty
Did I go there? I was afraid they were all hermaphrodites I was
The minority LAP ACTION
I can still feel terror as real and humiliating
But to eat more anchovies drink more orange soft drink
Start writing another book with another white cover
There are eight million then there are six
It is not a matter of how many go but how many remain
To care for the field
Rake the fragments of bone
Keep the skulls from falling over