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Shapeshift [Paperback]

Sherwin Bitsui

Price: CDN$ 15.95 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Book Description

Sept. 1 2003 Sun Tracks (Book 52)
"Fourteen ninety-something, / something happened / and no one can pick it out of the lineup . . . " In words drawn from urban and Navajo perspectives, Sherwin Bitsui articulates the challenge a Native American person faces in reconciling his or her inherited history of lore and spirit with the coldness of postmodern civilization. Shapeshift is a collection of startling new poetry that explores the tensions between the worlds of nature and man. Through brief, imagistic poems interspersed with evocative longer narratives, it offers powerful perceptions of American culture and politics and their lack of spiritual grounding. Linking story, history, and voice, Shapeshift is laced with interweaving images—the gravitational pull of a fishbowl, the scent of burning hair, the trickle of motor oil from a harpooned log—that speak to the rich diversity of contemporary Diné writing. "Tonight, I draw a raven's wing inside a circle
measured a half second
before it expands into a hand.
I wrap its worn grip over our feet
As we thrash against pine needles inside the earthen pot."
With complexities of tone that shift between disconnectedness and wholeness, irony and sincerity, Bitsui demonstrates a balance of excitement and intellect rarely found in a debut volume. As deft as it is daring, Shapeshift teases the mind and stirs the imagination.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press (Sept. 1 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816523428
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816523429
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 15.6 x 0.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 68 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,670,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Bitsui’s poetry is elegant, probative and original. His vision connects worlds." —New Mexico Magazine"What is exciting about Shapeshift is the fresh voice and perspective it introduces to Native American and Navajo literature. The times and attitudes have changed, and Shapeshift does not ignore this fact. . . . A must-read for anyone interested in discovering a new Native American author." —Navajo Times“His images can tilt on the side of surrealism, yet his work can be compellingly accessible.”—Arizona Daily Star

About the Author

Sherwin Bitsui is the recipient of the 2000-2001 Individual Poet Grant from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry and the 1999 Truman Capote Creative Writing Fellowship. His poems have appeared in American Poet, The Iowa Review, Frank, Red Ink, and elsewhere.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult Poetry, But Hard Won Reward Jan. 27 2006
By Constance M. Gotsch - Published on Amazon.com
In the 1920s, the then new-rage modern dancer, Isadora Duncan said "the entrance comes before the exit and the exit before the entrance." She meant life is circular and interwoven--a journey with repeated feelings, roots, and themes. Her idea came immediately to mind when I read Sherwin Bitsui's SHAPESHIFT. This little book of poetry blends Navajo mythlogy and modern America in a non-linear post-modern fashion. The idea of constant change permeates the book. Horses peel into sunflowers. Leaves curl around a hand and swallow it. Yet as the changes swirls, Bitsui inserts constant references to his Navajo roots and spirituality, giving him, and us a place to hang on and start fro, to cope with whatever comes. It is this firm sense of place that holds SHAPESHIFT together. Finding our place in each poem, we can then take our time to savor Bitsui's rich, and sometimes unexpected imagry and universal message--we all must deal with change in our own way. SHAPESHIFT is his way of coping. We can join him on his journey of learning how, because if we know our place in the universe, we can return to it and drew strength from it to go out again and face our ever changing world. The very name SHAPESHIFT reflects this thought. The word implies change, (shifting shapes) and has firm roots in Navajo tradition. However, SHAPESHIFT is not an easy book to read. It can take several passes to get into Bitsui's images and ideas. But once that happens, he offers a a unique philsophy to adapt to our own lives.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What the Cutting Edge Looks Like Sept. 3 2004
By Lise Goett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While Bitsui's work readily draws comparison to the work of Luci Tapahonso and Esther Belin, it belies the character of dissonance at work and that Bitsui, far from being derivative, has sculpted his own aesthetic out of his cultural persoectives. In Bitsui's work, as in the moral and psychological universe of Mediterranean poet René Char, Dine (Navajo) wisdom retains its unique and radical difference from the cold world of Puritan postmodernism. For Bitsui, the ceremony of integration is not an easy one. Things do not merge into a blurred likeness, they do not compromise each other, or themselves, by doing so. Each extreme keeps its extreme nature, and this, for me, is what gives Bitsui's work its knife edge. These are not poems of easy transcendence, despite the creative drive to transform pain into something which might bless or save us. His is a sensibility shaped by a landscape in which the forces of mountain, sky, sun, and desert exist together in their most concentrated and relentless forms and Bitsui's aesthetic acknowledges the surrealism of everyday life, leaping from the conscious to the unconscious and back again, and make references to what are, for me, the more powerful spheres of intuitive, spiritual, and sexual knowing that appear informed by his culture. Whatever one's opinion of Bitsui's work, he is certainly a poet to watch, this volume selling out of its first printing within the first eight months of its debut.
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh breath! Dec 7 2013
By Lange - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wonderful, complicated, imaginative, edgy, and twisted in a good way. I thoroughly enjoyed every word and have included the book in my classroom. One of the few books of poetry my students have actually liked, and that in itself is monumental.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great! May 24 2013
By Catrease - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This product was great! It was a little difficult to read at first but with the help of my professor it came along very well. I loved it!
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful poetry from Navajo Nation April 10 2012
By J. Minkman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this because a. I love poetry, and b. I am interested in Native American culture. This poet evokes a certain atmosphere that I can't describe in words. I would say he manages to capture the mood of being Navajo in contemporary society, but how should I know, I haven't been to Navajo Nation (yet!)... and still I feel that he is doing exactly that. The language is rich, the poems are mysterious and complex. Don't pass this one up if you like modern poetry. This speaks to the soul.

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