More than an introduction to readers (who will recognize the lyricism that makes this a special debut in the very first poem), I want to write a fan letter to the maker of this very fine collection. Where does one learn such vivid depictions of mystery and memory? I thought of Frank Stanford’s vernacular surrealism…I thought of Sylvia Plath’s shapely intensity…[Master] is the best sort of debut displaying an urgency rooted in the poet’s mind and body…I felt this way reading Ocean Vuong’s debut, David Berman’s debut, the debuts of Kiki Petrosino and Jane Mead…This book feels like one of a kind…In these poems, mercy grapples with forgiveness; kindness grapples with wickedness. They probe paradoxical feelings of presence and elusiveness…Yes, I could introduce this book using nothing but dazzling excerpts. They reckon with the inexpressible. Beauty is set free from a mouth with fangs.
—Terrance Hayes, from the Introduction
Praise for Master
This is one of the best collections I’ve read in a while. Simon Shieh’s voice is at once crisp and singular: his lines are tight, complex, and layered; his language unspools in powerful movements, so controlled and yet full of the devastating grace that precedes a final blow: “shattering the bone around my left eye/the doctors called it orbital//my mistake: resting my head/on his shoulder—letting him cradle it in his arms.” The beauty in this book is heartbreaking, brutal. Unsparing in its analysis and deconstruction of power, Master is a startling and stunning debut collection.
—Sally Wen Mao, author of The Kingdom of Surfaces
“Simon Shieh ‘speak[s] the cadence of rain,’ reminding us that ‘each of us is a scorched page, part narrative, part dream.’ A gifted poet, each line is ‘an elegant lure.’ Master is a must-read, and Shieh is one of our most exciting and promising emerging poets.”
—Sherwin Jay Bitsui, winner of the American Book Award and the PEN Open Book Award for Flood Song
If you surrender to Simon Shieh’s Master, if you let your eyes grow accustomed to its voluptuous and troubling dark, you will be rewarded with a singular reading experience: merciless in its vision and craft, dripping with muscularity and sweat, Shieh’s thrilling debut will leave you breathless.
—Ama Codjoe, author of Bluest Nude