Brandon-Shimoda-1-3-7-19-Photo-Scott-Tsuchitani-copy-300x300 Luan_Headshot-300x301 9781643621715_FC-300x450

Thursday, July 13, 2023, 6:00 pm PST

Brandon Shimoda with Emily Luan

Price: Free (Registration Required)

Brandon Shimoda reads from Hydra Medusa published by Nightboat Books and Emily Luan reads from In 回 / Return – Published by Nightboat Books



This is a virtual event that will be hosted by City Lights on the Zoom platform. You will need a device that is capable of accessing the internet. If you have not used Zoom before, you may consider referencing Getting Started with Zoom.

Brandon Shimoda reads from

Hydra Medusa

published by Nightboat Books

Emily Luan reads from

In 回 / Return

Published by Nightboat Books

About Hydra Medusa:

Part coping mechanism, part magical act, Hydra Medusa was composed while Brandon Shimoda was working five jobs and raising a child—during bus commutes, before bed, at sunrise. Encountering the ghosts of Japanese American ancestors, friends, children, and bodies of water, it asks: What is the desert but a site where people have died, are dying; are buried, unburied, memorialized, erased. Where they are trying, against and within the energy of it all, to contend with our inherited present—and to live.

About In 回 / Return

Rooted in the classical tradition of the Chinese “reversible” poem, 回 / Return is engaged in the act of looking back—toward an imagined homeland and a childhood of suburban longing, through migratory passages, departures, and etymologies, and into the various holes and voids that appear in the telling and retelling of history. The poems ask: What is feeling? What is melancholy? Can language translate either?

Brandon Shimoda is a yonsei poet/writer, and the author of eight books of poetry and prose. His published works include The Desert (Song Cave, 2018) and Evening Oracle (Letter Machine Editions, 2016), which received the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. His memoir and book of mourning, The Grave on the Wall (City Lights, 2019) received the 2020 PEN Open Book Award. He is also the curator of the Hiroshima Library, an itinerant reading room/collection of books on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He teaches at Colorado College.

A former Margins Fellow at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Emily Lee Luan is the author of I Watch the Boughs, selected by Gabrielle Calvocoressi for a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. She lives in New York City.

What has been said about Hydra Medusa

​​Hydra Medusa is stunning. Written partly by dream, partly by death, and wholly by a clarity born of deep spiritual and political reckoning, it traverses the ethics of being conventionally alive and inextricably bound to the dead. This is the continuation of a work by a poet who gets out of the way for poetry, who steps fully into it and vanishes.” -Solmaz Sharif

“This work’s incendiary material is living. It lives in the afterlife of disappearances, catastrophe, and alongside and with ghosts/ed life. Then again it lives in newness and true wonder. This is a book of wisdom, of dream-language, of the kind that only arrives in that afterlife of terror where people are transformed by dying and self design. Still/and, things bloom, we exist, the dead refuse.” -Dionne Brand

“Brandon Shimoda knows his way around the dead. He has summoned them, followed their lead, faced their despair, soothed them. Or was it the other way around? The poems and essays in Hydra Medusa embody the irrevocable connection between the dead and the living, dreaming and wakefulness, past and present, writing and reading. Delicate and sharp, vociferous when need be, always incisive, these poems interrogate the proliferating terror of everyday life while veering, tenaciously and fiercely, even tenderly, toward the love, vigilance, and responsibility needed to keep our ancestors close and alive.” -Cristina Rivera Garza

“Hallucinatory, visionary, this is Brandon Shimoda’s “anti-memorial” memorial to the ineluctable spectre of Pearl Harbour over 3 generations of Japanese Americans. Poetry is the vital signs of a language, whatever the cultural climate. How else is one to meet the petrifying gaze of history, in the form of the Hydra Medusa? I am grateful for this human document.” -Wong May

What has been said about In 回 / Return

“In 回 / Return, Emily Lee Luan’s stunning reflections on sorrow haunt the sensorium. This sorrow—or “an anger rooted in sadness”—is untranslatable, rooted in the violence of colonization, displacement, and deracination. And yet Luan’s poems, which alloy Chinese and English into feats of formal ingenuity and beauty, translate the unspeakable. Read it once, then read it again slowly to perceive the spectrum of emotions Luan unseams with dexterity. 回 / Return heralds a potent new voice in poetry.” -Cathy Park Hong

“Luan’s voice is almost shocking in its intimacy—reading this book is like suddenly being able to see emotions at the cellular level, across seas, through generations, between languages. Luan’s poetry pierces the surface of consciousness and swims powerfully into her own and our depths. Gorgeous, wondrous, genius.” -Brenda Shaughnessy

“Emily Lee Luan’s 回 / Return probes the haunted layers of racial melancholia, engaging familial tendrils of sorrow with a circularity that ultimately points to the stinging ache of no return. With gorgeous poems that breach and bridge the linguistic abyss, Luan guides us through a troubled-water poetics—“I heard the world as if through the belligerence of water”—in this sharp, prismatic and wonderfully radiant book.” Sawako Nakayasu

“The gift of 回 / Return is the poet’s ability to simultaneously plunge into the ache of diaspora and personal loss and invite the reader to consider the possibility and impossibility of wholeness. Emily Lee Luan, in a luminous debut, refuses to forget, knowing “my Sorrow was unafraid and it gave me back my bravery and anger.” And, rather than cede, invites and innovates through form, tongue, tenderness, and image. These poems are sigils carved from heartmemory to confront and restore.” -Anthony Cody

This event is made possible by support from the City Lights Foundation. To learn more visit:

Type of Event:

Registration Required:

Start Date:
Thursday, July 13, 2023, 6:00 pm PST

End Date:
Friday, July 14, 2023, 12:00 am PST


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