Poets Come Together for Toronto to Japan, With Love


Toronto poet and Pivot Readings Series co-host Sachiko Murakami, (author of The Invisible Exhibit, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for poetry) has been hitting the streets to cull love clips for Japan relief in a project that gets people off of the passive routine of observing tragedy and becoming a part of the solution to help fix it.  In addition to the public love she collects on video, Murakami has enlisted the help from the local poetry community.

“After the tsunami, I donated right away to the Red Cross. Sending a bit of money didn’t seem like enough. So I joined forces with some other writers, artists, and activists and formed Toronto To Japan – our two major initiatives are Hope Blossoms, a fundraising event on April 21 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and the Toronto to Japan, With Love video project – sending video messages of love from Torontonians to Japan. Toronto to Japan has kept me quite busy for the past three weeks.”

Murakami, ever the visionary and go-getting, called on her loyal army of poets to contribute to a special group poem that will be coming out as a special limited-edition broadside (think of it as poetry’s version of the music single). Putting her own writing aside for the project, Murakami thought that poets would be a great source of energy in addressing the emotional reaction of the crisis in Japan. “That’s what we do, right? We write. We make sense of things. We wrestle it out on the page. I thought of Japanese forms, and immediately the renga came to mind – it is a collaborative form, and I saw the potential of a group poem bringing Toronto poets together to do something with their art to help Japan, and let’s be frank – disaster has a shelf life. Canadians are moving on to their own domestic problems. I want to keep people alert to the situation in Japan, because I believe that what happens on the other side of the planet will affect us here, whether we choose to notice it or not. I’m choosing to notice, and to do what I can.”

Proceeds from broadside sales will go directly to Second Harvest Japan, an organization Murakami chose herself. “They are doing real work on the ground in Japan. Not only are they creating a food lifeline and food safety-net for the Tohoku region, they also support those most in need all over Japan – migrant workers, orphans, battered women in shelters, and the elderly.”  

Look for the broadside from The Emergency Response Unit later this spring.