Sachiko Murakami’s new collection, Render, is a complex poetic experiment in form, style, and narrative, weaving the poetics of trauma while grasping for objectivities to ground it into the concreteness of urban spaces. Throughout the book the poet borrows voices to elucidate the cycles of trauma that have scarred memory into illegibility.
Render is perhaps most visceral when it speaks of anxiety: anxieties of a crumbling world, of a hierarchy of tyranny, and of the overbearing structures set to place by masculinity. In “Thanatophobia I,” Murakami writes: “Death nudges her chin up to the sky. Acid rain, Soviet bombs, asteroids,” where the reader can see anxieties of a turbulent world.
Certain poems in the collection take great creative advantage of the space on the page. For example, in the poem “Acknowledgments” Murakami writes:
you’ll never know if you gave
the dark voice
was better than this
This spatial designation of certain lines creates a spectrum of objectivity along the poetic line as if each is spoken from a different area in the brain. This way, the page beautifully mirrors how the poet views the emotional hierarchy of such words uttered, and through this process, the poetry acts as a documentation of recovery from trauma, a quoting and misquoting of oneself as a way of providing objectivity to the voice of the poet herself. In this way, Render may be Murakami’s most personal collection to date. While digging into the viscera of memory and experience, Murakami finds the city enwombed in the figure of the mother and the domicile enveloped in elusive visions of the father. We read in the poem “Field Research”: “Between here and Vancouver, most of a continent. Between a mother and daughter, a sinew stretching city blocks.” The figure of the mother is ever present and looming, not only as an agent in the creation of experience-cum-poetry but also as a gendered figure imposed on the female voice by the masculine world; meanwhile the father figure is the bittersweet remains of an unreconciled wound on the passing curtains of memory. We read in the poem “Good God/ Bad God”: “My dead father acquires a god. The only evidence of their relationship is the / backyard full of shit.”
Render also speaks of the comfort provided by street drugs in the face of adversity, as well as the harsh realities one faces as an addict. In the poem “Two Truths and a Lie” we read: “Cocaine is its own poetry, if by poetry you mean a skilfully crafted web of lies.”
Overall, Murakami’s new collection is a lachrymose exploration of unreconciled wounds left behind by loved ones, the post-traumatic anxieties on both corporeal and universal levels, and the profound injustice following us all from city to city.
Khashayar Mohammadi is an Iranian-born Toronto-based writer and translator.
ARC HITS THE HEART HARD.