Hailed by Ishmael Reed as “one of our brightest talents,” Lee Ann Roripaugh’s fourth collection of poems maps the illusory and ephemeral connection between identities and language.
Based on sources as diverse as Heian-period Japanese women writers and the world of science fiction, and drawing on her own experience as a second-generation Japanese American, Dandarians explores a series of “word betrayals”—English words misunderstood in transmission from her Japanese mother that came to take on symbolic ramifications in her early years. Co-opting and repurposing the language of knowledge and of misunderstanding, and dialoguing in original ways with notions of diaspora and hybrid identities, these poems demonstrate the many ways we attempt to be understood, culminating in an experience of aural awe.
At once wonderfully lyrical and strikingly acute, Dandarians will further establish Lee Ann Roripaugh as one of the most important and original voices in contemporary Asian American literature.
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Praise and Prizes
“Lee Ann Roripaugh mobilizes the Japanese haibun to investigate the dialectic of trauma and care that gives rise to a particularly luminous poetic sensibility. The compound fractures of history are continuously mended by the grace of this writer’s wit and her openness to the shocks of beauty that surround us. Dandarians is a work of beauty and resilience.”
“Pleasure and danger and recollected frustration, the prismatic color of the Great Plains, the allure of exoplanets, the generative powers that wait in a child’s solecisms and mispronunciations: those are only some of my favorite things in Lee Ann Roripaugh’s best book yet. Here are pages to cherish simply for the way they make up words, or put words together, but here, too, is the resonant voice of a newly confident author.”
“Richly immersed in the language it interrogates . . . Dandarians acts as a form of political resistance in bridging the gap between cursory understanding and truly knowing enough to have the words for experience.”
Los Angeles Review
“In Dandarians, Lee Ann Roripaugh’s lovely, lyrical wordplay reveals its origins in political and familial dissent. She guides readers through dangerous territory, where clouds ‘dervish off the sagebrushed plains’ and ‘strangeness makes me a moving target.’ Reading feels like breaking rules, rules that separate us from others. Believe this poet when she tells you what she knows.”
“I am completely in awe of and in love with Dandarians, of the perfection of her images, the intensity of Lee Ann Roripaugh’s language, the glittering and gorgeous union of these two. She writes, ‘Sun’s cold high beam glaring everywhere—ricocheting off snow, stretching sky’s dome like a taut blue balloon, sluicing in through every window.’ I stall and stutter, a willing captive to her phrases.”