John Brandi - Poet & Painter
John Brandi - Poet & Painter

John Brandi - Poet


John Brandi, poet and painter, is a native of Southern California. He graduated in 1965 from California State University, Northridge, with a B.A. in art and anthropology. As a Peace Corps Volunteer (1966-68), he worked with Quechua-speaking Andean farmers in their struggle for land rights and civil liberties. While in Ecuador he began keeping elaborate journals, a practice which he still observes. He also began publishing his poetry in hand-sewn mimeograph editions as part of the "do-it-yourself" phenomenon that preceded the alternative-press movement. Returning to North America, he joined protests against the American War in Vietnam, and lived in Alaska, Mexico, and the San Francisco Bay Area, where he continued to write. In 1970, David Meltzer, a member of the San Francisco Renaissance, published Brandi's first collection of prose poems, Desde Alla. Soon after, he took up residence in a miner's shack in the Sierra Nevada foothills. On San Juan Ridge he met Gary Snyder, who introduced him to Japanese poet-wanderer Nanao Sakaki. In 1971 Brandi moved to New Mexico, built a hand-hewn cabin in a remote canyon, and founded Tooth of Time Books, which published the first books of several poets who would become internationally recognized.

During his early years in the American Southwest, Brandi traveled the high desert with Nanao Sakaki (Essay: Nanao or Never), compiled a collection of poetry titled That Back Road In, and earned a living by teaching as an itinerant poet. In 1979 he received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Poetry. He has remained a resident of New Mexico, and continues to teach, abroad and at home, where he has been honored by several awards from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry.

Brandi regards his parents as an early source of inspiration, citing his boyhood travels with them to the Big Sur Coast and the mountains of Yosemite. As he writes in Reflections in the Lizard's Eye: "Following each excursion I was asked to draw something I remembered from the trip, then write a couple sentences. These were bound into my first 'books' ... inspired by the notion that one traveled, observed, felt the world, then returned and transformed experiences into words and paint."

Brandi traveled the Americas from southern Chile to Alaska during the Sixties. In 1979 he made the first of many journeys to India to retrace his father's stay as a soldier in the India-Burma Theater. Visits to the Himalayas, China, Cuba, Vietnam, and the Indonesian archipelago have inspired many of his books, including A Question of Journey, a collection of prose, and Water Shining Beyond the Fields, haibun essays from Southeast Asia.

San Francisco Poet Laureate Jack Hirschman has said of Brandi: "He has been an open roader for much of his life and like his two great forbearers, Whitman and Neruda, has named the minute particulars, the details of his sojournings, infusing them with a whole gamut of feelings: compassionate, mischievous, loving and righteous. It's what's made his poetry one of the solid bodies of work that's emerged from the North American West since the '60s."

Novelist John Nichols, in his introduction to Brandi's book of essays Reflections in the Lizard's Eye, has written: "The way Brandi interprets the world is rich with the guts and gusto of old-fashioned magicians. His is a bittersweet, loving vision, as well as a hardass, heartfelt swansong to the disappearing vestiges of a more truthful way of life."

As a poet he owes much to the West Coast Beat tradition, as well as to poets as diverse as Federico Garcia Lorca and the Japanese haiku masters. As a painter, his mixed media work, often integrating words and paint, is bright with expressionist colors, while his more subtle haiga paintings draw on Asian influences.

John Brandi's publications include poetry, travel essays, modern American haiku, haibun, hand-colored broadsides, and limited-edition letter-press books. Four of his titles have been published in India. Recent books of poetry include: Facing High Water and In What Disappears. His stories about Southwest travels are collected in Reflections in the Lizard's Eye. His new and selected haiku appear in Seeding the Cosmos.

He has been a guide and lecturer for students of Ft. Lewis College in Bali and for students of San Juan College in Chiapas. He co-curated the "Jack Kerouac and the Writer's Life" exhibit in Santa Fe, 2007; lectured on the practice of haiku at the Palace of Governor's Museum, Santa Fe; at Lindenwood University, Saint Louis; and at Punjab University, India. In 2009 he gave the keynote address for the Haiku North America conference in Ottawa. In 2011 he was honored with an exhibit of his modern American haiga at the Chavez History Museum, Santa Fe. His papers are in the University of California Bancroft Library, Berkeley. A complete selection of his books and broadsides may be found at UC Berkeley Special Collections, University at Buffalo Special Collections, and at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, NM.

John Brandi lives with his wife, poet Renée Gregorio, in El Rito, New Mexico, where he continues to write, paint, and nurture a few melons in the garden.

Tooth of Time Books
  •  Tooth of Time Books Exhibition
  •  Getting The Word Out

Additional Links
  •  Glyph Poems
  •  Modern American Haiku Poets
  •  Desert Calling: Poet John Brandi

John Brandi - Poet

BA, Art/Anthropology, California State University, Northridge, 1965
Peace Corps, Quechua communities, Andean Ecuador, 1966-1968

Selected Awards:
Touchstone Distinguished Books Award for "A House By Itself:
Selected Haiku of Masaoka Shiki" (2017)
Witter Bynner Foundation Translation Award (2015)
White Pine Press World of Voices Poetry Award (2004)
Just Buffalo Literary Center Writer-in-Residence Award (1988)
Various NEA Literary Grants as Editor of Tooth of Time Books (1980-1988)
Witter Bynner Foundation Translation Award (1985)
National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship (1979)

Selected Books:
The Way to Thorong La (Empty Bowl, 2020)
The Great Unrest (White Pine Press, 2019)
Pa'Siempre: Cuba Poems (with Renée Gregorio, Tres Chicas Press, 2016)
Into the Dream Maze (Press at the Palace of Governors, Santa Fe, NM 2015)
At It Again (Tooth of Time Books, 2015)
The World, the World (White Pine Press, 2013)
Blue Sky Ringing (Punjabi haiku Forum, Chandigarh, India, 2010)
Seeding the Cosmos: New & Selected Haiku (La Alameda Press, 2010)
Road to the Cloud's House (with Renée Gregorio, La Alameda Press, 2009)
Facing High Water (White Pine Press, 2008)
Staff in Hand, Wind in Pines (Tangram Press, 2008)
Water Shining Beyond the Fields (Tres Chicas Press, 2005)
One Cup and Another (Tangram Press, 2004)
In What Disappears (White Pine Press, 2003)
Empty Moon : Belly Full, Haiku from India & Nepal (Pilgrims Publishing, India, 2000)
Reflections in the Lizard's Eye: High Desert Notes (Western Edge Press, 2000)
A Question of Journey: travel episodes India, Nepal, Thailand (Book Faith, India, 1999)
Heartbeat Geography: Selected & Uncollected Poems (White Pine Press, 1995)
Weeding the Cosmos (La Alameda Press, 1994)
Shadow Play: poems 1987-1991 (Light and Dust Books, 1992)
That Back Road In (Wingbow Press, 1985)
Chimborazo: Life on the Haciendas of Ecuador (Akwesasne Notes Press, 1976)
Desde Alla (Christopher's Press, 1971)

as editor:
The Unswept Path: Contemporary American Haiku (with Dennis Maloney, White Pine Press, 2005)

Selected Poetry Readings:
New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe, NM
Northwinds Poetry Series, Port Townsend, Wa
International Book Fair, Guadalajara, Mexico
Tea & Tattered Pages, Paris, France
Punjabi Haiku Forum, Chandigarh and Patiala, India
Saint Mark's Poetry Series, NYC
City Lights Books, San Francisco, Ca
Northwinds Art Center, Port Townsend, Wa
River Styx Poetry Series, St. Louis, Mo
Woodland-Pattern Book Center, Milwaukee, Wi
Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wa
Bowling Green State University, Oh
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
Beyond Baroque Foundation, Los Angeles, Ca
Center for Peace Through Culture, San Antonio, Tx
Moe's Books, Berkeley, Ca
Portland Poetry Festival, Portland, Or
Collected Works Books, Santa Fe, NM
Sacramento Poetry Center, Ca

Selected Lectures:
The Absent Traveler: Mtns, Rivers & Haiku, Chavez History Library, Santa Fe, 2007
Beauty Askew: notes from a haiku writer's life, Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, 2009
Jack Kerouac's Haiku: Jack Kerouac Exhibit, Santa Fe, 2009
The Haiku Journey: Basho to Kerouac, Palace of the Governors Museum, Santa Fe, 2011
The Art of Haiga, Palace of the Governors Museum, Santa Fe, NM, 2011

Keynote Speaker:
Haiku North America Conference, Ottawa, Canada 2009
Punjabi Haiku Conference, Punjab University, India 2010

Selected Teaching Experience:
Santa Fe High Schools (via Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry Awards), 2005-present
Idyllwild Arts Poetry Program, Idyllwild, Ca (1-week seminars for adults), 2000-2005
Idyllwild Arts Youth Writers Program (2-week poetry/art for teens), 2005
Sidney Gutierrez Middle School, Roswell, NM (visiting poet), 2002-present
Academy for Technology & Classics, Santa Fe (poetry seminars), 2006-2008
Monte del Sol Charter School, Santa Fe (poetry seminars), 2009-present
San Juan College, Farmington, NM (visiting poet) 2005, 2008
New Mexico Military Institute, Roswell, NM (poetry residencies), 2000-2005
Writers Voices, Buffalo, NY (poetry residency), junior high through college, 2004
Batesville Schools, Batesville, Ar (poetry residencies), 4th-12 grades, 2000-2003
Roswell Museum, NM, (poetry/visual arts residency); mid-school through adults, 2000
New Mexico Poetry-in-the-Schools (all ages, including the visually and hearing impaired, juvenile homes, maximum and medium-security prisons), 1973-1985
Nevada rural schools: (Poetry-in-the-Schools, grades 4-12), 1988-1995
Montana rural schools (Poetry-in-the-Schools, grades 4-12), 1992
Fort Lewis College, Durango, Co (1-month adult writing seminars, Bali) 1997, 1998
San Juan College, Farmington, NM (2 week adult writing seminar, Chiapas, Mx), 2007

Teaching Experience (with Native Americans):
Aleknagik, Ekwok, Koliganek Schools (Poetry/Art), all ages, 1991
Teachers Workshop, University of Alaska, Bristol Bay Campus, 1991
New Stuyahok School, Alaska (Poetry/Art), all ages, 1986
Navajo Nation Schools, NM: (Poetry/Art/Theatre Improv) grades 3-12, 1986-1997
Shiprock Alternative High School, Navajo Nation, NM: (poetry/art), 2004
Georgia O'Keefe Museum Outreach Program: Cochiti Pueblo, NM (Poetry/Art), 2002
Zuni Pueblo, NM: Ashiwi Elementary School (Poetry), 2002

Major Exhibits of Paintings:
San Francisco Public Library
Roswell Museum of Art, Roswell
New Mexico History Museum, Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe
Loka Cafe Gallery, Taos
Harwood Art Center, Albuquerque
Cruz Gallery, Santa Fe
Randall Davey Audubon Center, Santa Fe
Claudia Chapline Gallery, Stinson Beach, Ca
North Columbia Cultural Center, Nevada City, Ca
Woodland-Pattern Book Center, Milwaukee
Laurel Seth Gallery, Santa Fe
University of New Mexico Thompson Gallery, Albuquerque
Return Gallery, Taos
Moody Gallery, Houston, Tx

Major collections of his books and broadsides:
University at Buffalo, NY
California State Library
Brown University, Providence, RI
University of California, Berkeley
Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, NM