Sachiko Murakami investigates concepts of ownership and belonging through a spare and precise line in her second book of poetry, Rebuild (Talonbooks 2011).
Dwelling, home, house, at ease, at rest, familiar, homey, homely, family, household, infill, rental, renovate, commodity, abode, investment, flip, flip, flip, knock it down, “boom crash boom crash.”
“Bin that shit.” Re-start. Rebuild.
Native to whom? “This is dream city, built on shores/still not ceded.”
Poems built on phrase and sentence. Line on top of line, floor on floor, storey on storey, family on family.
Her language throughout is elegant, spare, precise. Concrete nouns I can touch, and move, and long for.
She carries forward the project of writing (“the real”) Vancouver from such writers and artists as Keith Higgins (vancouverspecial.com), Lisa Robertson (Occasional Works and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture, Coach House), Jeff Derksen’s cricitcal and creative work, Lee Henderson (The Man Game, Penguin 2008) and so many others.
The poems in Rebuild strike at (the crack in) the heart of Vancouver.
That we are currently experiencing a housing crisis in this city. That this crisis has a catastrophic effect on the most marginalized populations of the city, and a not inconsequential effect on working artists of the city, and even a deleterious effect on the middle-class mortgaged-to-the-tits, renting-out-their-basement-suites for $1100, $1300, $1500 a month in order to afford their own mortgages middle-class. That this pits us all against each other, poor against less-poor, landlord against tenant, us against them, “the uses of us,” competitive renting.
The underground dwellers, the SAD sufferers, the mole people.
That the centre is always in flux, “(always, always East).”
Move farther move father now a little further.
And always the convo turns/to condo: prime plus five/what point did you get?
Focus on the hole. Focus on what is missing.
What was here before?
What was here before?
Our memory here is short-term, short-term, instantaneously forgetting re-writing re-building.
From a NYT Magazine article on the popularity of the Hoarding shows: “home”…is “the ultimate fetish object of the first part of the millienium.” I’d argue it’s still the ultimate fetish object, especially in Vancouver. And what happens to the soft bodies within, when the shell is the “ultimate fetish object?”
Murakami’s tone is perfect throughout, knowing, shifts from personal to general, from reportage to realtor, from glib to pleading.
Call me on this. Please. Call me on this.
Then emerges the howl from the centre of the death of the father, a death that leaves its imprint on book and writer.
Murakami’s poetry performs erasure on itself, tries to renovate and rebuild. Something faster. Something better. Tears out consonant and vowel, post and beam, with dishwasher, writes elegy, writes condo, writes missing, writes return. Returns to scaffolding, to consonant, to the letters of her dead father’s name.
To die with empty hands, to die a renter in a city of homeowners.
The un-reality of the renter. No property, no ownership, no shoes, no service.
But we are all tenants on this land.
Project Rebuild is a collaborative poetry project where writers and readers are invited to renovate Murakami’s Vancouver Special poems. As of my posting (10:32 p.m. on July 17) collaborators include anonymous, Henri Lefebvre and the sidewalk, as well as other known, living writers. rob maclennan has a good post on the project over on his eponymous blog.
Nikki Reimer writes from a basement suite in East Van.