Karatani Kojin


Brandon Shimoda's 'The Desert'

Photo of the Painted Desert by W. Bulach, via Wikimedia Commons.

Reading Brandon Shimoda’s enigmatic and haunting The Desert, one wonders about the status of the desert and the fate of place after its replacement by landscape and the “inner man.” Written between 2011 and 2014 in Tucson, Arizona, with poems set in the American desert as well as in Japan, The Desert is less a landscape or “transcendental field” than the posthistorical (non)place that follows human violence. 

What is the poetry of the desert, at once a place and placelessness itself? In 1980 the critic Karatani Kōjin published Origins of Modern Japanese Literature, where he theorized the distinction between place and landscape as a historical phenomenon.

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