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'Another Spring': A renga for Japan

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An impressive group of Toronto poets have come together to create a poem in response to the recent devastation in Japan. Another Spring is a renga for Japan, which is a traditional Japanese collaborative poetic form.

"Traditionally, the renga was, sometimes, something of a party game. Guests at a party might write a renga together throughout the night, each taking turns writing a stanza. Our renga, however, was passed from poet to poet via e-mail," explains Sachiko Murakami, the curator of Another Spring.

"I started with the first stanza, then passed it to Melanie Janisse, who then responded to me; I then passed it to Nathaniel G. Moore, who sent it back to me, and so on. The only instruction poets received was to write a 5/7/5 or 7/7 (syllabic count) stanza, keeping in mind the stanza previous, the poem as a whole, the theme of spring, the situation in Japan and the renga form," she continues.

As the renga's curator, Murakami said she was conscious of the order of the 27 poets. "I tried to keep a flow from individual to individual going without too many abrupt shifts in style. Breaks and shifts did happen, of course. At the end I tinkered with the punctuation to help with the reading; I helped make apparent connections that needed a tiny nudge towards realization."

The contributors are Sachiko Murakami, Melanie Janisse, Nathaniel G. Moore, Jacob McArthur Mooney, Dani Couture, Paul Vermeersch, Mat Laporte, Angela Hibbs, Jim Johnstone, Shannon Maguire, Adam Seelig, Liz Howard, a.rawlings, Jenny Sampirisi, Natalie Walschots, Carey Toane, Jay MillAr, Aaron Tucker, Jeff Latosik, Aisha Sasha John, Moez Surani, Leigh Nash, Meaghan Strimas, Michael Knox, Elisabeth de Mariaffi, Stuart Ross and Larissa Lai.

As for the title Another Spring, it came to Murakami as she was reminded of spring's inevitable return: "no matter how bleak winter may seem -- another as in one more, and how different the spring must be in the Tohoku region of Japan this year -- another as in different."

The Emergency Response Unit has published a broadside of Another Spring, and it is available online for $10. It will also launch at participating poet Melanie Janisse's new Kensington Market shop, Pineapple (2 Kensington Avenue) this Sunday, May 29. All broadside sales will be donated to Second Harvest Japan, the country's first national food bank.

Between 2-4 p.m., the launch will feature a group reading of Another Spring by participating poets, as well as readings of original work by the renga participants. 

Murakami's reading will be from her forthcoming book Rebuild, which she says "takes up the subject of real estate and city/civic building -- its pleasures and trappings, its complicated histories. Its site is Vancouver, my hometown, but I think if you've ever considered buying a condo -- even secretly -- you'd get something out of it."

She goes on to explain that there is continuity between Rebuild and her first book of poetry The Invisibility Exhibit, both in terms of content and style. "Both books are site-specific (Vancouver) inquiries but resonate, I hope, beyond place. In terms of style, both tug and trouble the viability of the lyric sensibility. There's definitely a distrust of the polished, admirable, well-wrought poem I often can't help but want to write -- like the condo I can't help but wish I lived in, some days. In Rebuild, I "rebuild" poems again and again. I chip off words like rain-damaged stucco. I return to the same poetic blueprint and remodel it."

The poets will also be on hand to write custom haikus. For $2 you can get your own poem written by a master poet on the subject of your choice. All proceeds from haiku will go to Second Harvest as well.

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