Finalist for the 2023 National Book Award for Poetry
With Tripas, Brandon Som follows up his award-winning debut with a book of poems built out of a multicultural, multigenerational childhood home, in which he celebrates his Chicana grandmother, who worked nights on the assembly line at Motorola, and his Chinese American father and grandparents, who ran the family corner store. Enacting a cómo se dice poetics, a dialogic poem-making that inventively listens to heritage languages and transcribes family memory, Som participates in a practice of mem(oir), placing each poem’s ear toward a confluence of history, labor, and languages, while also enacting a kind of “telephone” between cultures. Invested in the circuitry and circuitous routes of migration and labor, Som’s lyricism weaves together the narratives of his transnational communities, bringing to light what is overshadowed in the reckless transit of global capitalism and imagining a world otherwise—one attuned to the echo in the hecho, the oracle in the órale.
Brandon Som celebrates his Chinese and Mexican ancestries by amplifying not collision but coalition—a cultural partnership that’s existed in the Americas for generations, though seldomly encountered in poetry. At this vibrant intersection of language, ethnicity, and identity, inventive imagery is borne and so too a surprising lens that leaves us awestruck by Som’s rich poetic landscape and multivalent story.
—Rigoberto González, author of To the Boy Who Was Night: New and Selected Poems
In Brandon Som’s Tripas
, a vision of the self is profoundly contingent on portraits of others that manifest 'what’s passed down, what’s recovered.' Som brings a consciousness of 'tenor & rasp' to poems informed by family gossip and social history, one’s place of origin and one’s place of immigrant footing, and the textures of Chinese and Spanish. Saturated with exuberant language and story, the poems in Tripas
have the amplitude of archives and the intimacy of songs.
—Rick Barot, author of The Galleons
'What is it we keep? What is obsolete?' Brandon Som’s Tripas
shows us the insides of conversations, family lineage, and technological objects as a line in itself—everything connected—the wires, the 'piecework,' the harmonics of English, Spanish, and Chinese, and the people in his family whose labor and language are tied and inextricably linked to material and matter. As the daughter of a microchips assembly line worker, I have been waiting for this book from the grandson of a Motorola plant worker, and I see how these poems are fragments that are not fractured, but found, heard, recorded. Som’s poems are a ledger of love that shifts, traces, extends that which telephones often do: split distance and cut across time to bring us closer to what is created.
—Janice Lobo Sapigao, author of Microchips for Millions
is a beautiful book and a wondrous reading experience. It transcends multiple borders, telling vivid family stories in gorgeous lyrical language. Whether honoring his Chinese grandfather or Chicana nana or other colorful characters—the poems flow euphonically line to line, with fine phrasing and deep compassion. . . . If personal is universal, this family portrait represents the beauty and resiliency of our diverse and colorful human condition. It augurs a spectacular world to come.
—Marilyn Chin, author of A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems
His grandfather’s arduous journey from Asia to the US, his grandmother’s time in a microchip factory on the border, his relatives’ work in barbers’, butchers’ and corner shops could form the basis of a memoir, autobiographical novel or case study in pan-American history. But so far Som has written none of these things. Instead, he has built what he knows about his family’s labours into two intricately patterned and formally inventive books of poems.
—Stephanie Burt, London Review of Books