Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Out-of-Town-Authors: Roy Miki

Mannequin A MANO: Author Roy Miki
Poet reflects on our obsession with consuming commodities

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
by: Ariel Gordon

Vancouver-based poet Roy Miki has been called a pioneer of the Japanese-Canadian redress movement.

The Governor General's Award-winning writer will launch his fifth collection of poetry, Mannequin Rising, on Friday at Aqua Books.

His reading is a part of Asian Heritage Month's Asian Canadian Writers Showcase.

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1) As a writer (i.e. someone whose artistic practice is predicated on time spent alone) how do you approach performance? What do you get out of it?

For me, a public reading gives me a more tangible means of experiencing the sound, rhythm, and form of a poem - and getting an immediate response from a reader has always been a revealing moment.

2) What do you want people to know about Mannequin Rising?

My new book comes out of a fairly lengthy period of thinking about the pervasive effects of commodity culture on our daily lives. After the heady days of identity politics, which preoccupied me for many years, I wanted to look more intimately at the implications of our obsession with consuming commodities in all of its forms, even identities.

As I sauntered around my Kitsilano neighbourhood in Vancouver with my digital camera, I found myself attracted to the figures of mannequins in the store windows. I began constructing a series of photocollages that re-situated some mannequins in different landscapes that are part of the neighbourhood, both urban and natural, or the mixing of the two. A series of poems formed in and around the collages, and soon other series, based on Granville Island in Vancouver and Shibuya and Ginza in Tokyo, took shape. These three series formed the basis of the book.

3) Will this be your first time in Winnipeg? What have you heard?

I grew up in Winnipeg. My family was part of the mass uprooting of Japanese Canadians during the 1940s. I've read here on a number of occasions and have had wonderful conversations with writers and readers about current writing.

4) What are you reading right now? What are you writing right now?

I generally read several books at the same time because I have strong interests in both creative and critical thought.

One book I'd like to mention, though, is Rene Rodin's utterly insightful and very beautifully written book Subject to Change, published by Talonbooks. It's a book of stories drawing on luminous personal moments, at the heart of which is a tender and courageous story of her father's passing.

As for my own current writing, I'm working through the final draft of a collection of essays on Asian Canadian writing, called In Flux: Transnational Shifts in Asian Canadian Writing, forthcoming from NeWest Press this fall.

5) Tell me about your work with the Japanese-Canadian redress movement.

As a child of internment I grew up with stories of the mass uprooting, and especially of the injustices suffered by my family because of the racist policies of the federal government. Getting involved in the redress movement was a natural extension of wanting to see the government acknowledge the injustices and negotiate a settlement directly with Japanese Canadians. It was a great honour and privilege to be able to participate in the movement that finally led to an agreement on Sept. 22, 1988.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer.

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This article was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Sunday, May 22.

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