Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sachiko Murakami - oh, lymphic poetry

It's strange, but I almost wish I were back in Vancouver. I've been working on a poetry manuscript for some time about Vancouver's conception of itself - the vague, frantic rhetoric of the World Class City, the rapid building up and tearing down that's happened over the past century, the strange relationship it has with its lack of "native" architecture (and its troubled relationship with its Native heritage)... all of which are really coming to a head with the Olympics. And now there are so many Olympic-reaction events happening all over the city: Riot Songs at the Tent City, Safe Assembly (including the - luckily webcast - Short Range Poetic Device readings, Abandon Normal Devices at W2... Thanks should be made to organizers like Steve Collis and Nikki Reimer for getting the word out, especially to farflung folk like me.

I'm just not much of a sporting person. Competitions aggravate my anxious temperament. In team sports, someone throws a ball at me and I duck/run away. I suppose I just don't get it, the way the people who are screeching GO CANADA in my Facebook feed don't get why we can't all just shut up and enjoy the games. In the spirit of anti-competition, then, over on my blog on Tuesday several poets helped me out in writing a collaborative poem. Here is what it ended up looking like. (Original is here.)

O LYMPIC
By Rob Budde, Spencer Gordon, Angela Hibbs, Gillian Jerome, Reg Johansen, Alex Leslie, Jacob McArthur Mooney, Sachiko Murakami, George Murray, Sina Queyras, Nikki Reimer, Jacqueline Turner, Paul Vermeersch, Zach Wells, and Remy Wilkins

If you prorogue willingly
If your spirit says something other than go, go go
If suspending democratic rights allows you to cheer wholeheartedly for your country
If your country is represented
If its citizens are
If a red mitten, no snow
If you are prorogued without consent
If while cheering on your country you find yourself in contact with a citizen who disagrees with you
if neither of you own a red mitten
If poetry is a competition
If the world is watching you
If I am Canadian!
If the poet ends up on the podium
If you prorogue poetry for the duration of the Olympics
If your spirit does not involve the nation
If the nation is a piece of fan fiction
If you ski
If you sky
If you sigh
If you do it not for the nation
If not for the state
If for you
If against us
If you're not with us (in red mittens)
If you confuse poetry with a Molson's ad, with pablum, with one muzzled voice.
If your country is more than hip checks and Timbits
If nationalism makes Timbits no more or no less delicious
If contests trump context and contracts make dog acts
If you can skate on frozen Coca-Cola
If poetry is written by committee and dignity is reported as ignominy
If a collaboration is more useful a spectacle than a competition
If the ice makes a pleasant sound while cracking
If men in black jackets, white cars, say "dance!"
If smurfs boogie-woogie on the bonafide Wonderland
If you can swing your hips now
If you can locomote, without a Coca-Cola, but a big fat cheese-curdy poutine in hand
If you unhinge your inner Riel
If Ben Mulroney makes you twitch, twitch, twitch
If you can resist innumerable Spirit Bears lobbed at you in Lite Brite,
If you feel underestimated in fourth place
If a fly can't bird, but a bird can fly, give them both silver
If positivity is compliance, spiritualized
If lymphs swell proud as woolen mittens
Then pus white
Then red
If your noun is unsanctioned
If your protest is branded
If if
If you take the slam out of poetry
If public
If pedantic
If ice
If the mittens make us itch
If didacticism wakes us up in the morning and lyricism stopped answering our phone calls when we called it an idiot
If we once referenced modernism in a crowd of academics when we should have referenced post-modernism and then were quickly reminded of our irrelevancy
If we live in a country that confuses criticism with jealousy
If we're always either too snobby or not snobby enough
If we are less
If glowing adulation makes us think we're the ones with the problem
If we refuse to believe that charisma should cover for talent
If "jejune" was our middle name
If my we is not your we
If nationalism makes us uncomfortable
If tepid makes us feel safe
If not now, when?
If not us, who?
If farmed salmon causes throat swells
If you drown in quilt-size maple leaves
If you fled from polar Godzilla
If you cried when Celtic Satan flew down on his space canoe to destroy the Na'vi
If only "D'oh the Podium"
If priorities are the wrong Ministry and privilege is assumed like a national emblem
If the torch could keep us warm
If fashion before function
If we need a medal to be
If you couldn't find a single TV in downtown Olympic Vancouver to watch the men's short program figure skating during the hockey game
If the male employee in HomeSense told you, eyes bulging, in his blue employee shirt, his hand on your shoulder, that the GENERAL CONSENSUS for the nine HomeSense TVs is hockey and the female employees said "Sorry, I like figure skating too," nine TVs of hockey
If the nice female employees at the Telus Booth in Pacific Centre told you that they are legally bound to play CTV on the giant TVs at all times so, no, you couldn't watch figure skating here, just hockey
If you don't have a sponsor
If you then went to the Mac glowing cave in Pacific Centre to watch the figure skating on live stream on the web (somewhere?) and were told by Mac employees, no, because Sportsnet, because you can read cookbooks on an iPhone
If you feel unCanadian in a downtown colonized by hockey
If you went to a peaceful protest overseen by police on horseback in yellow riot gear
If the enforcement of peace through hockey
If hockey in Earls, black glass and girls with reservations and boyfriends
If hockey players in riot gear
If figure skating in the street
If the Canadian identity is debated on the CBC with Shaun Majumder, Ian Hanomansing, and a poet
If Owning The Podium and Racial Identity can be mentioned in the same sentence
If giant polar bears roam around the Tent City
If Homes truly are a Civil Right
If red jerseys colour the streets
If ten-year-olds with backbacks wearing red jerseys make you fall over by leaning their full body weight into you on the 135 when it's stopping short. And the bus driver packs everybody in past the yellow line.
If flags are fashion
If national pride is a human interest story
If you prefer IPA to Canadian
If you sort of love Shaun Majumder
If cherry blossoms, crocuses, and daffodils beat out snow
If green is the new red
If F.U. hand stitched on red mittens
If we all "owned" our "own" podiums
If the north was just the north
If the weather protests loudest


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Sachiko Murakami wrote The Invisibility Exhibit. She lives in Toronto.

4 comments:

Lemon Hound said...

Oh man, that last line...

Sachiko said...

Ms. Turner gets the last word!

a. said...

This too - the Olympic tent village (Brad Cran did a reading). http://olympictentvillage.wordpress.com/

Rob Taylor said...

Ha! There are some great lines in there. Thanks!