Sherwin Bitsui is the author of three collections of poetry, Dissolve, Flood Song, and Shapeshift. He is the recipient of a Whiting Award, an American Book Award, and the PEN Book Award. His poems have appeared in Narrative, Black Renaissance Noir, American Poet, The Iowa Review, LIT, and elsewhere. He is Diné of the Todích’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the Tlizílaaní (Many Goats Clan), and has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the Native Arts & Culture Foundation.
...I’m always humbled by poetry’s ability to shock me and make me feel that there’s a bigger story here, that as poets we summon this from a river that’s already flowing and sing this into being. Many of our poems are songs, and that may seem contemporary, but I also feel like they come from people who’ve gone before us and they resonate with that history, that continuum. I’m just sitting here, trying to locate where my thoughts are coming from and where my heart is in terms of this work, and where it needs to be. I’m really abstracted right now…
Bitsui’s work is particularly remarkable in its portrayal and philosophy of the natural world. Dissolve’s landscapes refuse verdicts of passivity and objectification. Rather, they insist upon defining themselves as both organic processes and vibrant matter: “This mountain,” Bitsui writes, “stands near us: mountaining.” Line after line, nature, in various forms, expresses itself as an active verb.
The formal integrity of Bitsui’s lines enables seamless transitions from the momentary to the timeless, from each disorienting and dazzling idea to the next: “the flattened field is chandeliered/ by desert animal constellations.” Bitsui’s exhilarating poetics lay in the blur of time, the slow and sure slide from ghostlike ideas into haunted-looking things, in constant erasure and redrawing: “No language but its rind/ crackling in the past tense.”