While on the bus to elementary school in a small New England town, Brandon Shimoda--the offspring of a Japanese American father and white mother--was taunted for being "Portuguese." Shimoda's latest collection returns the author to a moment he felt challenged to become what he was being called, however falsely, and despite feeling confused, flushed, and afraid. The poems themselves began to form in adulthood while Shimoda--again riding the bus--took in his fellow passengers: their voices, minds, faces, and bodies; their exuberances and infirmities, the ways they both enlivened and darkened the days. It was within these people that poetry seemed most alive. At the same time, the poems in Portuguese are a response to the words of visual artists whom Shimoda was reading while riding the bus--Etel Adnan, Eugene Delacroix, Alberto Giacometti, Paul Klee, and Joan Mitchell, all of whom appear in the book. It was within these people, too, that poetry seemed most alive. The presiding struggle in this collection is with poetry itself--the form and its impulses, and the act of writing. But Portuguese is more than all these things.
It was--and is--an act of preservation, giving form to the energy that makes up some part of our memory.