Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Renovating Poetry: Sachiko Murakami's Project Rebuild

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Sachiko Murakami

“Poetry is work for me. But it should be fun work.” So says Sachiko Murakami, discussing Rebuild, her latest collection of poetry. This follows The Invisibility Exhibit, which was a finalist for the 2008 Governor General’s Award for Poetry. Rebuild, her second collection with Talonbooks, emerges alongside Project Rebuild, an online “experiment in collaboration” where readers have the ability to interact with poems. As Murakami describes it, “each poem has links that show the previous tenants and the renovations, and the visitor acts as flâneur in the neighbourhood, but also gets to walk through a text's history.” Rather than lament the effects of technology on the literary, Murakami has embraced it and sees new opportunity for poetry in the online world: “the internet holds a lot of possibilities for changing our process, particularly in collaboration.”

Rebuild is still being published as a printed book, but Murakami is clear that this need not limit potential conversation. “There are so many ways we return to things that have already been committed to paper — the forms of the glosa or the convention of the epigraph. A book (at least Rebuild) arises, at least in part, as a result of conversation and context. And my insights and strategies with language? I'm open to revisiting them. I'd rather stay open and grow than shut down and stay stuck.” Murakami describes the process of “renovating” her own poems: “There are quite a few poems in the book with the same names, but they've been altered, fixed up, torn down, changed for the better or worse.” This is internal work, but Murakami also reached out, using the resources of colleagues and technology. “I started talking to people about it, then sat down and wrote the poem. I ran it through Google Translate into four languages of people I have known who had lived in them. But I wanted to extend the conversation beyond myself, so I sent it to some poets and invited them to move in.”

The choice of words here — moving in, tearing down — is apt given the context of the vertical transformation of Vancouver in its condo craze that inspired Rebuild. The content and context of the collection are inseparable. “Rebuild's main concern is real estate, and its primary site of inquiry is Vancouver, where the residents are concerned with buying, selling, flipping, renting, moving up and out of the basement suite into a condo, a single detached far from the city, another basement suite — all in a city with a serious problem with affordable housing for its most vulnerable residents.” Asked if she has any advice for Torontonians caught in this same construction hysteria, “I'm definitely no authority on real estate,” is the quick reply, but “a market in which even the smallest condo is out of reach of most people — how can that be good for a city? I still don't know how to change the market. I do know that I had to take that wanting and confusion and anger and do something with it, to effect change in the first and most important place to effect change — in myself.”

Rebuild, launches Wednesday, September 7 at 8 p.m. at The Press Club as part of the Pivot reading series, which Murakami also co-hosts. See Open Book's Events Page for details.

Nicole Dufoe recently completed an MA in English Literature at the University of Toronto. She is currently an intern with NOW HEAR THIS!, an initiative of the Descant Arts & Letters foundation, and is working on her first collection of short stories. Nicole lives and works in Toronto.

For more information about Rebuild please visit the Talon Books website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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