Brandon Shimoda with Andy Fitch

photo of brandon shimoda
Brandon Shimoda

Over the summer, Andy Fitch has interviewed 60 poets about their latest books. Ugly Duckling Presse will publish these collected interviews in 2013. This interview focuses on Shimoda’s book O Bon (Litmus Press). Recorded May 25. Transcribed by Maia Spotts.

Andy Fitch: In O Bon’s author statement (itself perhaps more poem than transparent autobiographical record) you mention, as poets often do, the desire to create a ritual space through or within the text. Yet your book, unlike many, points toward a quite specific ritual space, one associated with both the Obon holiday and Bon Odori dance. Can you provide some sense of how these particular cultural practices work their way into the idiom, thematics, and/or architecture of the book—especially in terms of its emphases upon honoring one’s ancestors while enacting a dance or procession?

Brandon Shimoda: I’m still trying to figure that all out. This goes back to 1988, when I first experienced the Obon festival and dance as a 10-year-old, standing with my family on a bridge in Kyoto. A lot of this book comes from trying to piece together what happened on that beautiful and terrifying night.

Amanda Nadelberg and Brandon Shimoda in Conversation

photo of Amanda Nadelberg and Brandon Shimoda

Over the next year, Andy Fitch will be asking participants from his Ugly Duckling Presse interview project to pair up and interview each other. By placing parallel interviews alongside his own, Fitch hopes to demonstrate that no one talk is definitive, that there are an infinitude of possible trajectories for such a discussion to take. In this discussion, Amanda Nadelberg and Brandon Shimoda interview each other.

The following are 200+ sentences taken from our letters to each other, compiled into a single prose work, or whatever it is: sentences, fresh and clean. We realized any conversation we might have would be like an inset or detail of the one already ongoing; we have talked in person and by letter and email about, for example, our books, so we thought, maybe our books would want to listen to us, through the guise of some sentences, the interviews with good Andy Fitch, and in the company of browsers and passersby. We didn’t actually say any of this, but it could happen. Our sentences are accompanied by a soundtrack we wanted to share with you, including a weather report, songs we’ve been listening to, and the voice of Xia Bernheimer Hendricks (8; daughter of writers Kate Bernheimer and Brent Hendricks), reciting a small number of our sentences—all interwoven, as our natures. We invite you to read and listen.
—Amanda Nadelberg & Brandon Shimoda, late-September 2012

[mp3j track=”″ title=”Soundtrack”]


When do you leave town?

And where to?

Some of the postal workers were just getting off duty.

Rob was an instant peaches.

Hence all the loosey goo of me.

When I first met him he had a terrible “case” of poison oak all about his body—not exactly like an aura, but something like an aura.

I think he had jumped into it, thinking it might save him.

And how does one pretend to have finished?

Is it all in the face?

Hillary Gravendyk with Cynthia Arrieu-King

Hillary Gravendyk

In her interview program The Last Word, Cynthia Arrieu-King interviews amateur and professional poets and writers most often in the South Jersey and tri-state area. Her subject for this interview is poet Hillary Gravendyk. [mp3j track=”Hillary Gravendyk Interview@″ caption=”with Cynthia Arrieu-King”]