The Girl Without Arms is a figure in Japanese folklore—a young girl whose arms are lopped off by her father, and is left to die in the mountains. The father, at the behest of his evil wife—the girl’s stepmother—lures the girl into the mountains at the promise of attending a neighboring festival. This is only the beginning of the tale.
The poems of Brandon Shimoda’s The Girl Without Arms are birthed of the rainy shut-in pause between steps forward and back in a season of great floods. In successive and interlocked sequences, these poems grapple with a seemingly unbridgeable confusion—related to love, the impossibility of life outside of love, and the unbearableness of life within it—as a way to give shape to the dark weather that permeates our lives, so as not to drown at its coming.
Brandon Shimoda is a 2020 Whiting Fellow, and the author of several books of poetry and prose, including Hydra Medusa (Nightboat Books, 2023), The Grave on the Wall (City Lights, 2019), which received the PEN Open Book Award, and Evening Oracle (Letter Machine Editions, 2015), which received the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. He is also the co-editor of To look at the sea is to become what one is: An Etel Adnan Reader (Nightboat Books, 2014) and an anthology of poetry on WWII Nikkei incarceration (forthcoming from Haymarket Books in 2025). He currently lives in Colorado Springs and teaches at Colorado College.
“Brandon Shimoda seems to be an Ur-being, a totally new creature: And I never wanted children, but now / I want children / To drop / Through skeletal netting / Nameless / Into black beds / As like into potters aglow in generous helpings of children. His language changes natural laws. We, standing by, reading, shivering in awe, are stopped. Mute, then refreshed and launched. His children.” —Tomaž Šalamun
“Brandon Shimoda’s The Girl Without Arms is a whirlwind of language. I got lost in the turning and I was so happy to be lost, for once. Because the genius of poetry is to make you feel like you always want to be lost in a cone of words and light, twisting around what may have started out as your one self but is now so many selves. And twisting, tearing, and splitting you so pleasantly into many selves is exactly what this book does.” —Dorothea Lasky
“Sometimes I can taste the world in a poem. Sometimes there is a poet in service to deliver everything you want to taste in the world. Brandon Shimoda is such a poet. If every book he writes is as good as The Girl Without Arms there will be many years of never going hungry. Some people have faith in god, but I have faith in Poetry. I have faith in Brandon Shimoda.” —CAConrad