The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Photograph of Sherwin Bitsui

Sherwin Bitsui

Desert Nights, Rising Stars Faculty 2020

About Sherwin Bitsui

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.

More About Sherwin Bitsui

---. "From "Dissolve".2018.

On limbs of slanted light
painted with my mind’s skin color,
I step upon black braids,
oil-drenched, worming
from last month’s orphaned mouth.
Winged with burning — 
I ferry them
                from my filmed eyes, wheezing.
Scalp blood in my footprints — 
my buckskin pouch filling
                with photographed sand.
No language but its rind
                crackling in the past tense.
Tearing apart cloud names — 
pierced fog commands:
douse the inferno’s ribs
with opaque forgetting;
clip dawn from the book’s dusk,
unfasten the song’s empty auditorium
                over a garden of mute foals.
Tearing apart fog names — 
pierced cloud sings:
let them shriek from their hinges,
let them slice their gills open
with flint knives
and circle their ghosts
as frog-skinned antelope,
let them drag their legs over a trail
anchored to a ladder
that has soaked up blood
since land began crawling out of anthills.
Slipping into free fall,
we drip-pattern: the somewhere parts,
our shoulders dissolving
                                                in somewhere mud.
The arcing sun whistles
across the mask’s abalone brow,
its blurring pouts into a forest
chirping from a lake’s bite marks
stamped vertically on this map’s windowsill.
Kneeling our thoughts on ellipses
evaporating from ollas of fragrant wet clay — 
we saddle the drowning’s slippery rim.

Harjo, Joy. "Sherwin Bitsui by Joy Harjo."BOMB Magazine  

...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…


Bartlett, Joshua. "Dissolve By Sherwin Bitsui." Ploughshares, December 5, 2018.

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.


Publishers Weekly"Dissolve By Sherwin Bitsui." Publishers Weekly, September 17, 2018.

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.”