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Books Noted: Sherwin Bitsui, Flood Song


Copper Canyon Press, 2009

Sherwin Bitsui's second book of poems, Flood Song, interweaves allusions to the Native American myths and customs Bitsui was raised with and searing, felt observations of contemporary urban life. Bitsui floods his work with streams of observations of the real and the imagined, through descriptions of the seen and surreal metaphor. Bitsui writes:

I compare my hands to what I imagine thought might look like
when suspended in fossilized amber,

release the captured mosquito from my closed hands,
string dimming gas lamps between rain and fall,

and insert into the knife's pale origin—
       a twig warming the clutched hand.

Here, Bitsui leads us through fascinating syntax and imagined actions to a place of origins. In this way, he preserves the feeling of myth, while showing myth as an essential mode of thinking. The book, an interweaving sequence of poems, builds to a powerful ending that shares how contemporary life can pull at what people know and what they have inherited.

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