Winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry
The poems in Brandon Dean Lamson’s first volume, Starship Tahiti, explore imprisoned bodies and the tension between captivity and imagination. Beginning on Rikers Island, the book traces a creation myth in reverse, moving from prison to the spacious arches of Grand Central Station to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.
Lamson examines themes of violence, gender, and identity in various real and imagined settings where inmates read Antigone, Howlin’ Wolf sings in a black barbershop, and Metallica records burn on a Viking altar. Throughout these shifts, the poems construct fractured narratives that subvert linear storytelling. The layering of voice and imagery in this collection transgresses boundaries between the secular and the sacred, and between the communal and the personal. As the speaker of “Portland Bardo” says,
The fragile, in between state of larvae hatching
is no less desirable than full bloom in a city of roses, if such a city can ever be found.
"Starship Tahiti immediately engages the reader, and from the first line, to the last, one hears an earthy calling. This collection travels, looping through headspace, with a measured, solid footing that only true genius dares or garners. These poems are risky, but Brandon Lamson knows something about the American psyche that exposes what we’re thinking and feeling. This voice has been around a few sharp curves, and now he conducts a knowing music we can trust. And if we’re looking for the truth, Starship Tahiti gets to the quick, but hones an edgy grace."—Yusef Komunyakaa, author of The Chameleon Couch and Warhorses