Brandon Shimoda

1. We yearn to hear each other, find each other, to make
our sounds
so heard

that even the dead will hear us speak.[1]

2. After their first winter in prison, and after the snow melted, the Japanese prisoners—Issei men, in their 50s and 60s (though the youngest was 33)—noticed, all over the prison grounds, stones. Stones of infinite color, shape and design, thrust up through the thaw. Perhaps this is the site of an ancient river or sea, wrote Iwao Matsushita in a letter to his wife Hanaye, for polished pebbles are strewn all over and everyone is immersed in collecting these stones, adding: like children (March 9, 1942). Iwao was incarcerated in the Department of Justice prison in Missoula, Montana. Hanaye received the letter at home in Seattle. (She would, shortly after, be forcibly relocated to the Puyallup Detention Center, then to the Minidoka concentration camp in Idaho.) Iwao was, in the hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, apprehended by the FBI, then turned over to INS. He arrived in Missoula on December 28. The valley that Sunday was covered in snow. In the spring, the stones grew like flowers. Iwao was one of men who kept busy by gathering—hunting, digging, harvesting—stones. The men polished the stones, made jewelry, sculptures, gifts for their families. Iwao mailed stones to Hanaye. So avid is this stone picking, Iwao wrote to her, that it is said that anyone not involved in this hobby is not human. Gathering stones was a way to be, and stay, in the midst of being criminalized as enemy aliens of the country to which they had immigrated, to which they had committed their families, their futures: human. And also, as Iwao wrote: children.

3. The poets of Japanese American incarceration, especially the sansei, yonsei, gosei descendants of the camps—David Mura, Heather Nagami, Brian Komei Dempster, Brynn Saito, Christine Kitano, W. Todd Kaneko, Mia Ayumi Malhotra, among them—are not only the inheritors of the history, more specifically of their ancestors’ experiences, but are the reanimation of the prisoners who kept busy by gathering stones, polishing and making out of them works of art, as well as the reanimation of the prisoners’ movements, curiosity, enthusiasm, ingenuity, boredom, despair. It is not that the poets are in need, as the prisoners might have been, of keeping busy, but that there is a reflexive, perhaps ancestral need to return, ad infinitum, to the ruins of incarceration, and gather from them the fragments of what, when (and if) assembled, might generate a meaning, if not an understanding, that has been, despite (or because of) the ways incarceration has been told, including through its ongoing memorialization, withheld, even disappeared. Poetry is a way for the descendants to be, and stay, in the (ongoing) midst of having been delivered into the realization of their ancestors’ dreams and desires of the future as citizens: human.

4. When a descendant returns to and confronts an event, an experience, that their family members endured (are enduring still), and that is as enigmatic as it is traumatic, what questions do they ask? What is the first question that comes to mind? Which is another way of asking: where does one begin?

5. What are the differences between memory and history?
One gives birth to fire and one gives birth to stones.[2]

6. One of the men with whom Iwao Matsushita gathered stones was my grandfather, Midori Shimoda. He was the youngest prisoner, 33 years old. My grandfather was incarcerated in Fort Missoula under suspicion of being a spy for Japan. He rarely, if ever, spoke about it. Never with me. I was born a few years before Alzheimer’s began to devour, very slowly, my grandfather’s brain. One reason he never spoke with me about his incarceration is that he did not remember. And yet he also did not remember because, Alzheimer’s notwithstanding, he wanted to forget. His desire to forget manifested, first, in stories that were airy and overly positive, from which complexity and complex emotion were drained, then in silence. Part of the silence was due to the breaking down, through translation, and into fragments, the overly positive stories. The silence of ashes, dust. That was the scene when I arrived. My grandfather spoke of other things. He spoke quietly, thoughtfully, and, the more his mind succumbed to the devouring, mysteriously, magically. But it was what he did not speak about that grew into the heartland of my obsession.

7. One of the few things that one can, with any certainty, expect to find in the ruins of Japanese American incarceration—in the physical ruins of the innumerable incarceration sites—are stones.

8. The prison grounds were carbonated, effervescent. Stones imply a form of communication that enables silence to express itself.[3]

9. I moved to Missoula in August 2004 to begin my first semester in the MFA program at the University of Montana. The commitment to be (or becoming) a poet was less about enrolling in a creative writing program, and more about being close (or closer) to my grandfather. Living in the valley where he had been incarcerated felt like the first act on the path. It initiated, beyond the confines of academia, a relationship with poetry that radiated from an acutely terrestrial disquiet. I felt my grandfather’s presence. Especially at night. Some nights I heard his voice. Distant, with the amplitude of an ember burning (spinning) out upon the ground. I wanted to bring his presence, and his voice, up to where I was, or I should say I wanted to bring myself down to where he was, or felt him to be: buried—beneath the accumulation of narratives and counternarratives, denials and refusals, by which the truth of his experience was obscured. By buried I mean also: arrested. That some part of him had not managed, or been permitted, to be released, to join the rest of himself in the future, a future in which he found himself, therefore, already incomplete. By buried I mean also: disintegrating, yet with the fertile energy of that same (still) spinning ember caught in the obsidian wave of an underground spring. I felt that in order to reach my grandfather, I would have to return, even if for the first time, to the space of his arrest; I would have to descend into the burial ground.

10. If I can find it, how much can / I really know? asks Brian Komei Dempster, in his poem, “Crossing,” in which he visits the ruins of Topaz, the concentration camp in Utah where 8,130 Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans, including his mother and grandparents, were incarcerated. The further Dempster drives into the desert, the more his thoughts and his vision become hallucinatory: I half-dream in waves of heat: summon ghosts / from the canyon beyond thin lines of barbed wire, as if his velocity—through the desert, towards his family’s fragmented history—offers an occasion for the fragments of his family’s past to begin, however haltingly, to congregate.

11. What does a poet do? (hesitatingly): Poetry? Then what is poetry? A perpetual because irresolvable return—in feeling, thinking, writing—to the ruins—of history and memory—out of which might be harvested flashes of consciousness that are converted, through language, into literature? (By poetry is also meant translation and memorialization. By ruins is also meant everything that has grown and overgrown in the afterlife of an event bounded, however falsely, by time.)

12. The second section of Saito’s Power Made Us Swoon includes the following poems: “Stone in the Desert Camp, 1942,” “Stone Chorus: Manzanar,” “Stone on Watch at Dawn,” “Stone Returns, 70 Years Later,” and “Lifting the Stone,” the last of which ends:

... I go on
blindly, seeking a life with life at the center,
seeking a life with clarity sharp as a saint’s knife
at the center. Split the wood, said the prophet
in the lost gospel. Lift the stone. There I’ll be found.

Blindly is how it feels—how it must—to seek a life, any life. But to seek a life with life—clear, sharp, saintly—at the center, is sightedness. Sightedness does not relieve us from the complexities, the seeming improbabilities, of seeking what manifests, for us, in the process of seeking; complexity and seeming improbability are heightened and advanced. Sightedness, refracted, becomes synesthetic, extrasensory.[4] And what becomes omni-dimensional, then overwhelming, makes the seeking feel as if in a fog, by which we are, and by the object we are after, repealed. I’m on the brink of becoming unrecognizable / to myself, Saito writes.

13. The prophet in the lost gospel is underneath the stone. To find him requires lifting the stone. But to lift the stone requires knowing which stone. It requires hearing—making oneself available to hear—the prophet when he says, There I’ll be found. What happens when the prophet is found?

14. Saito’s poem “Stone in the Desert Camp, 1942,” begins:

Between the turtle rock and the crane rock
the children found me. I was shining
and smooth and silent about my secrets.

A stone is speaking. To us, the readers. What follows is a poem in which a stone narrates, in twenty-four lines, the life of a concentration camp, from the construction of the barracks, to the emergence, in the barracks, of voices, singing, dancing. But mostly what caught me was the quiet, / concentrated chatter of elders, the stone relates. The stone is omnipotent. An ear of penetrating sympathy. But why is the stone silent about its secrets? Are the secrets what the stone narrates, i.e. the things (singing, dancing, crying) it hears, about which the stone was, until the children found it, silent, but now is not? Or are the secrets deeper, less expressible, more private, fugitive?

15. But what we don’t anticipate
is how the dust of the desert will clot our throats,

how much fear will conspire to keep us silent.
And how our children will read this silence

as shame.[5]

16. The secrets of the experience of incarceration, of the concentration camps, are activated by the appearance, especially the curiosity, of children who form their own strata, are geological too. Children waste no time in homing in on the object, the subject, the space, of greatest mystery and puzzlement. They are preternaturally adept at divining the source of silence. They ask questions—with their eyes and their hands. Children do not need to be told to lift the stone. Like children, Iwao Matsushita wrote.

17. What are the stone’s secrets? What has not yet been spoken or shared or revealed about incarceration, that inspires the poets’ need to return, ad infinitum, to the ruins, to which the stones have privileged access? Against the electric blue and purple and also green aura of the stone’s (and the stones’) secrets are set the questions that have existed—that have been moldering, growing mold, also refining and sharpening themselves—within the community and each family for generations, the most aching questions being the least expressible, for not knowing where, exactly, to begin. Or how. But wanting to, desperately.

18. Which is another way of asking: where did one begin?

19. Iwao and Hanaye Matsushita’s letters appear in Imprisoned Apart: The World War II Correspondence of an Issei Couple (University of Washington Press, 1997). Because no letters exist between my grandparents during my grandfather’s incarceration in Fort Missoula—my grandmother, June (Chizuko Yamashita) Shimoda, was a teenager, living with her family outside the exclusion zone in Utah, so was not incarcerated—Iwao and Hanaye’s letters have become, for me, approximations, proxies, for what my grandparents might have shared.

20. The Matsushitas’ letters also appear in “Internment Epistles,” a series of poems by David Mura, in his book Angels for the Burning (BOA Editions, 2004). The first poem begins:

Dear Hanaye,
A cold snap blew in today …

The last poem ends:

Beneath the far peaks
snowy fields wait like a blank page
for me to write one last message:[6]

The Matsushitas, Issei, wrote letters of beauty and sadness, encompassing the weather, wildlife, wildflowers, what they were eating, when they might see each other again, and did so in simple, straightforward language. Mura, sansei, collages and remixes the language of the Matsushita’s letters with his own fabulations into a theater of star-crossed yearning, framed by cold, snow, sparkling ice, and the ultimate field—of asphyxiation and permission, in equal pressure: the blank page.

21. We were gemstones
strewn in the wasteland.[7]

22. My first attempts to understand my grandfather’s experience were armed with poetry. Though I read books (completely without method) when I was younger about Japanese American internment (which is a purposefully deceptive word, and legally false), and studied it as an undergraduate (in a single class on Asian American history), I mark the earnest beginning of my research as the visits I paid to the site where my grandfather was incarcerated, which is now a historical museum. I brought with me to Fort Missoula two books (not including my notebook): the Matsushitas’ Imprisoned Apart and Lawson Fusao Inada’s Legends from Camp, both of which I—devotedly, foolishly—put to work as field guides.

23. The first poems I read that inhabited Japanese American incarceration were by Inada. Inada was four when he was incarcerated in a detention center in Fresno, then in a camp in Jerome, Arkansas. He and his family were eventually transferred to a second camp, in Amache, Colorado. Here is a paragraph from the introduction to Legends from Camp: And this smooth one where we’re standing—with the sand on it, see?—is Amache, in the Colorado desert, not all that far from here. While we’re at it, let’s let that little stone by your foot stand in for Leupp—a “mini-camp” right here on the Navajo Nation. (And, yes, we had major camps on other reservations; so you might say that it makes sense that the chief camps administrator went on to become chief of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, where he “re-deployed” his policy of “relocation.” Which included, yes, “termination.” Which reminds me—down the ridge, in Europe, our relatives had base camps in Italy, France, Germany, and some of them liberated a camp called Dachau.) Here, detailed in a single train of thought, is the madness: Japanese Americans incarcerated on native reservations by an administration run by a man who “re-deployed” the weapons devised against Japanese Americans towards the policy of Native American termination, while another set of Japanese Americans, fighting overseas for a freedom of which they were deprived, liberated Jewish prisoners in Dachau, all narrated using stones to mark each site of exception.[8]

24. The map discolors, fades, becomes a sea. The stones, islands, remain. Is it possible that that is, one day, how sites of war, of detention, of exception, will appear: as mounds, isolated and overgrown? That even the volumes that have been produced—of history, testimony, interpretation, literature, poetry—may discolor and fade into the map, leaving the sites, and their events—which possess their own consciousness—enclosed in realms of ruin, of fugitive sentience?

25. The meaning of an experience may or may not be realized in the time it first occurred or is occurring, but may require one or several generations in order to process (itself) or be processed, by someone else or a community outside itself (and time), which may require, in turn, a process of deep inquiry, research, reenactment, enchantment, somatic engaging, a kind of haunting in reverse. A divinatory process. Poetry is a method of translating an unrealized experience into an interactive panorama.

26. There are few places that are mine,
I claim them:
this ground once vandalized,
this blue silk sky where embroidered cranes keep vigil,
this opened cage of torn barbed wire,
this bowl of sand from Amache Gate.
I keep them like a rock in my shoe
to remind me[9]

27. The poets also have in common with the prisoners the revitalization—the reclamation—of the prison grounds/ruins by imagination and ingenuity. One way the Japanese Americans transfigured time and space into momentarily endurable and sustainable homes was by designing and making gardens: thousands of gardens, thousands of reclamations, thousands of dreams realized as pathological responses to a loss of control, thousands of effigies to the state-expedited evolution of Japanese American life. The gardens appeared almost immediately: vegetable gardens, cactus gardens, flower gardens, victory gardens, faux bois (false wood) gardens, tsukiyama (hill and pond) gardens, karesansui (dry landscape) gardens, stone gardens. Almost immediately: as if the gardens were transplanted from home, or as if they were abstract spaces into which the Japanese could enter to temper the sense of alienation they felt upon arrival.

28.        In camp, it’s said, they cut
gardens into Arkansas desert,
              fixed rocks into the flat face
of the earth and irrigated
              bean rows to feed their families.
Healthy vines appeared
              where none should have
grown; tiny buds coaxed
              from the earth, tendrils
that spooled runners
              through dust.[10]

29. If the right stones are not available they must be invented. This is as true for the poet as it is for the prisoner-gardener. (The prisoners relocated stones from elsewhere, for example the Inyo Mountains outside the Manzanar concentration camp, for use in the construction of their gardens.)

30. A stone is not a weapon

like a name is not a stone, yet it’s hard
to see what a man builds with the stones

he has chosen.[11]

31. What is the difference between a stone and a rock? Is one more or less poetic? Is one more or less likely to draw the attention of the prisoner? The poet? The digestion? Is one more or less easy to throw? Through a window? At a person? Is one more or less easy to build a wall with? To plug a hole? In a wall? Is one more or less easy to polish, to make jewelry with, sculptures, gifts for one’s families? Is one more or less likely to hang? In the sky? Which falls faster? Harder? Through a body? The ground? Both stones and rocks are hard, both are solid, both are mineral, both can be precious, can be cut, can be smooth, can be mistaken.

32. In his poem “Picking Up Stones,” Lawson Fusao Inada tells the story of Nyogen Senzaki, the erstwhile Zen teacher incarcerated in Heart Mountain, Wyoming, who:

went about gathering pebbles
and writing words on them—
common words, in Japanese
with a brush dipped in ink.

Then he’d return them
to their source, as best he could,
the ink would wash
and no harm was done.

Other prisoners, observing Senzaki inscribing his ephemeral texts on stones, made a game out of gathering up the stones he had returned to the prison grounds. But:

it was difficult to tell
which was which:

“his” pebbles, just plain pebbles,
or those of which, in his hands,
had remained mute,
dictating silence . . .

Just plain pebbles, yet to be anointed by the prisoner’s brush. The difficulty of telling which stones were touched by Senzaki and which were not was inconsequential, as was the difference between stones. What was consequential was the act—deliberate and lighthearted—of choosing. In that, the prisoners and Senzaki were engaged in the same activity. The game, the pursuit, brought the prisoners out. It gave them something to focus on, to get their minds off camp life. And it brought them into intimate relation with the land on which they were incarcerated. Many of the stones ended up, years later, in the former prisoners’ homes, on shelves, over fireplaces, in gardens. Isn’t that where grandchildren find them?

33. we salvage
the phrases spoken

by ghosts, a resurrection that may end in rest.[12]

34. To be found: to desire to be found? The stone must be found first, then the prophet underneath it. Are the discovery of the stone and the revelation of the prophet (prophecy) synonymous? To lift the stone is not only to touch the stone, but produce, for the stone, the vault of secrets about which it chooses to either speak or stay silent: its shadow.

35. I am the prism


your prison.

              My ancestors,

the jewels

              set in sand.

Through facets

              I etch memory.[13]

36. The poet is the prism. The poet’s ancestors are the jewels. Each is dependent on—and defined by—the nature of its faces. The poet’s faces translate what they see (receive, absorb) into a language of many colors. The language, the colors, either clarify or distort. Sometimes both. At once? A jewel is a stone cut into a shape with a face or many faces. The faces also translate what they receive and absorb, but into a language of a single color, which bears the jewel most forcefully (away) in imagination. In this way, faces are synonymous and/or interchangeable with minds, the mind.

37. Inada refers to Senzaki as an erstwhile Zen teacher, but Senzaki’s commitment to Zen did not end at Heart Mountain, nor afterwards. He continued to teach Zen, after the war, in downtown Los Angeles; a number of his students went on to become teachers of Zen in their own right. Senzaki delivered his final dharma talk on June 16, 1957. To live in Zen, Senzaki said, you must watch your steps minute after minute, closely. As I have always told you, you should be mindful of your feet.[14]

38. Take these coal-black characters,
Hanaye, take them as footsteps
across a frozen white tundra[15]

39. Wandering the prison grounds in search of stones (as were the prisoners) and wandering the ruins of the prison grounds in search of history (as are the poets) both look like walking meditation. Walking meditation often looks, on a scale of different speeds, like daily living (life). Even when the meditation is not walking, but standing or sitting (which are not necessarily the same as sessile or sedentary). Even if the poet looks like they are doing something else, the part of them that is bound to their ancestors’ arrest (which is unquantifiable) is immersed in walking meditation. In fact, the poets are only rarely in the physical ruins when they are writing. But the ruins, once entered, remain open. The ruins are everywhere. Sometimes they are flowering. Sometimes stone. (Sometimes the stones flower.) But they do not close.

40. The work of a poet of Japanese American incarceration, especially a descendant who was not there, is the work of pilgrimage. Life, for a descendant, is a pilgrimage. But the pilgrimage (of poetry, postmemory, life)—because it is repetitive, seems futile, and does not end—is hellish.

41. Our ancestors—our grandparents and great-grandparents, our parents—are both Virgil and Beatrice.

42. Brian Komei Dempster’s Topaz (Four Way Books, 2013) is dedicated to his grandparents, Nitten Ishida and Chiyoko Saito Ishida, and his uncles, Hidemaro, Kunimaro, and Kibimaro Ishida. Christine Kitano’s Sky Country (BOA Editions, 2017) is dedicated to her mother and father, okage sama de. Mia Ayumi Malhotra’s Isako Isako (Alice James Books, 2018) is dedicated to her grandparents, Shigeko Tabuchi Sakai and Sachiko Iwai Higaki. David Mura’s Angels for the Burning (BOA Editions, 2004), is dedicated to Susie, Samantha, Nikko, & Tomo. Heather Nagami’s Hostile (Chax Press, 2005) is dedicated in memory of her father, Koichi George Nagami, and her grandmother, Ada Tsuyako Togawa. Brynn Saito’s Power Made us Swoon (Red Hen Press, 2016) is dedicated to her grandmothers, Marilyn June Oh and Alma Nobuko Saito.

43. My grandfather was the first Alzheimer’s patient at Abernethy, the assisted-living facility in Newton, North Carolina, where he spent the last five years of his life. The patients were permitted access to an enclosed patio. Midori collected stones and placed them on the outside sills of the patients’ windows. He was not aware of who or what was on the other side. Not patients, or people, but each stone had a personality, formed against the backdrop of time, which appeared as an ocean or a desert: stones rising out of water, water evaporating to stones. One was always measuring the space, the vastness, of the desert and the ocean against stones. And though the stones became larger and larger, they were becoming smaller and smaller. Midori was sympathetic to the stones that were small. He could see largeness in a small stone. Each was singular and self-contained, despite being drawn from the immeasurable mass. There comes a point, with all the stones picked up and placed on windowsills, when there are no longer any stones on the ground. That is the point when the stones are moved one sill to another, which is not arrangement or rearrangement, exactly, but the vibrating skin of the horizon.

44. Two months after my grandfather died, we scattered his ashes in Death Valley. It is what he wanted. His ashes scattered in the lowest point in the United States. He died September 1996. In November, we gathered on a hill on the road down to Stovepipe Wells. My grandmother, my aunt, my father, my mother, my sister, my great-aunt and uncle. I had the feeling we had gathered as strangers. That with my grandfather’s death, we had been particularized by our relationships with him, each of us compelled by what we shared with him, what we did not share with each other. We chose a spot on the hill and built a monument. We each wandered around the hill looking for stones that reminded us, in some way, of Midori. The monument amounted to a crude prototype, a childlike effigy. The sun was high. I remember my grandmother was wearing a white turtleneck and jeans. My grandfather’s ashes—which my grandmother carried, for North Carolina, in a clear cellophane bag in a wooden box—were gray, a puzzle cut into one trillion pieces. My grandmother walked in a circle around the stone monument, scattering the ashes with a plastic spoon we picked up from a gas station in Nevada. Scattered is not the right word. She dressed the stones with her husband’s ashes. She planted his ashes. She released them.

45. He must be degraved,
pulled up, potted, niched
up against the stone wall.

46. In Saito’s “Stone Returns, 70 Years Later,” a stone narrates the movements of a writer, a woman, in the ruins of Manzanar. The stone is in the writer’s left pocket, but can feel—can see, can sense—everything. The stone wonders if the writer will for a moment, stop moving, be still:

How to ask her to be so still

the desert flowers coalesce around her
like sky’s chorus at dawn?

She can’t. She paces the length
of the barrack blocks

The writer, pacing, rubs the stone in her pocket like a rosary. The stone narrates— permits—a feeling, an admission, of its own:

I’m worn. I’m tired
of their histories[17]

47. What is the difference between history and memory? What is the difference between fire and stones? What does it mean to give birth to stones? What does it mean to give birth to fire? Which gives birth to stones: memory or history? Which gives birth to fire: history or memory?

48. The filmmaker Rea Tajiri—whose films History and Memory (1991) and Strawberry Fields (1997), which think through, in radical, beautiful, and surprising ways, her family’s incarceration in the Poston concentration camp, and which are, by the way, my favorite films about Japanese American incarceration—told me that a friend once asked her: Aren’t you tired of being an internment artist? When she told me this, I laughed, then grimaced. I felt the underlying truth. Such a question might shame a person into reexamining their obsessions, and the reasons why they are unable to exorcise them. It is not a question though, but a reduction, an insult. I wanted to answer on behalf of Tajiri—who collects rocks—and myself, and say: I am tired, yes. But I have only begun.

49. To be worn, to be tired, is to be chosen, to be made, to have been given life.


[1] Heather Nagami, “The Gift,” Hostile.
[2] Brynn Saito, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Teacher Resource.”
[3] In stones.
[4] Seek, from the Latin sagire: to perceive by scent.
[5] Christine Kitano, “Gaman,” Sky Country.
These lines are actually followed by two more stanzas, three lines each, the first stanza in italics (un-italicized here): No wonder you slipped. / It’s a sea of ice, you know. / Sparking in sunlight. // You should have warned me. / Old woman of white, / you have to be alive to tell the tale. . . .
[7] Brian Komei Dempster, “Crossing,” Topaz.
[8] I realize I just repeated, in poorer language, what Inada wrote. I have repeated some form of this paragraph, give or take an overlapping layer of oppression, innumerable times, to express the fact that Japanese Americans were not incarcerated in isolation, but were fed into a broader system, not only of incarceration, but of exclusion and exploitation.
[9] Janice Mirikitani, “Generations of Women (Sansei),” Love Works.
[10] Mia Ayumi Malhotra, “Portrait of Isako in Wartime.”
[11] W. Todd Kaneko, “Land of the Free.”
[12] Heather Nagami, “The Gift,” Hostile.
[13] Brian Komei Dempster, “Topaz.”
[14] Nyogen Senzaki, Like a Dream, Like a Fantasy: The Zen Teachings and Translations of Nyogen Senzaki.
[15] David Mura, “Internment Epistles,” Angels for the Burning.
[16] Mitsuye Yamada, “Search and Rescue,” Camp Notes.
[17] Brynn Saito, “Stone Returns, 70 Years Later,” Power Made Us Swoon.

Brandon Shimoda’s recent books are The Desert (poetry and prose, The Song Cave), Dept. of Posthumous Letters (drawings, with text by Dot Devota and Caitie Moore, Argos Books) and The Grave on the Wall (an ancestral memoir, City Lights). He lives in the desert.

This “literary address” is part of a series of 20 addresses commissioned by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the Association for Asian American Studies. Penned by leading Asian American (and in this case, Pacific Islander) poets, writers, playwrights, graphic novelists, and literary scholars, the addresses assess the state and future of Asian American literature and offer a wide-spanning re-imagination of its place and consequence.