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Topic: Carolyn Nakagawa

Earth-shattering nuances: Matsuki Masutani’s I will be more myself in the next world

I will be more myself in the next world is a collection of poems that are large by being small, diligently attending to the minutiae of domestic life and relationships with family and with the self. Dividing his book into seven sections, Masutani includes translations into his native Japanese for three of them, though he writes poetry in English after a suggestion from the poet and visual artist Roy Kiyooka (“Acknowledgements”). The structure of his book also takes guidance from Kiyooka, as each individual poem unfolds into the next as part of a longer thematic sequence, similar to Kiyooka’s serial style of poetry. Masutani is far from alone in claiming influence from Kiyooka, whose poetic works dating back to the 1960s serve in some ways as a precursor to a wider movement of Asian Canadian literature that began to flourish in the 1970s. It is a movement that Masutani has also been a contributor to, translating important works by Japanese Canadian authors such as Kiyooka and Hiromi Goto into their heritage language.

A Saturation of Violence: What Hurts Going Down by Nancy Lee

Nancy Lee’s first full-length poetry collection, What Hurts Going Down, paints a landscape of rape culture that is both matter-of-fact and horrifying. The poems reveal this world through an array of personal recollections, second-person invocations, and third-person narrations, varyingly detached and vivid. Rape culture, or the normalizing of sexual aggression and exploitation, is a subject of visceral, if mundane, recollection: a hookup on a basement bear-skin rug (“Girl with Bear”), an encounter in “a bar by an off-ramp” (“Ms. Clairvoyant”). But it is also a sedimentation of echoing encounters that effortlessly parallel coming of age: “my childhood bed, the guest room / bed, the bed in my college dorm / and the futon in my first apartment” (“Analysis”).

Ambivalent Inheritance: my yt mama by Mercedes Eng

Calling something a “myth” or a “legend” is misleadingly aggrandizing; it elevates while also implying that the thing being elevated is something other than the truth. In my yt mama, Mercedes Eng emphasizes mythologization’s long history as a colonial tool, and turns its destabilizing logic onto her own personal origin story as the “non-yt” daughter of a “yt mama” born in Medicine Hat. She ravenously forages knowledge from family hearsay, childhood memories, Wikipedia, a colonial history of Medicine Hat written for Canada’s centennial, and observations of family members, friends, celebrities, and craft-brewery bros. The strongest sense of authority among all these knowledges comes from the unspoken memories of childhood: in poems such as “race according to my yt mama,” an adult Eng restores the child’s narrative by drawing attention to what her mother was not seeing in their offhand exchanges about race.