A Swimmer – Suzuki

Somehow, nearly two years ago, I came across the work of Hiromi Suzuki and contacted her to see if she’d be interested in trading books – one of mine for her Ms. Cried: 77 poems (Kisaragi Publishing 2013). She was quite gracious and agreed; in mail-time, shortly afterward, her book arrived. Ms. Cried is an intriguing collection of poems in Japanese “kanji”, “kana” and “katakana”, and in English, accompanied by diverse b/w structural images and subtle fragmentations and suspensions (photos by ichigo yamamoto). Suzuki explained in an email that Ms. Cried is a compilation of her walking explorations of the springwater and creeks of Tokyo, and her research into the histories of its subterranean streams. Her poems borrow from Japanese folklore, as well as folklore from other cultures, to make connections between suburban modes and symbols of transportation (tramway, station), human movement (walking), and water (aqueducts, streams). For example, she connects the name of a nearby station to a giant in Japanese mythology “Daidarabotchi”, from whose footprints lakes and ponds were created. Ms. Cried‘s title is from the Japanese “水食らい土-mizukuraido”: “水” means water,  “土” means soil, and “食” means eating.

In a recent exchange, Suzuki explained that she wrote her poems in an orthodox Japanese style, but included some experiments, such as her box shaped poems (p. 17, 18, 19). When you navigate Suzuki’s site online, and view some of her work in online journals (BlazVox, Empty Mirror, h& (& recent interview by Ian Whistle’s “We Who Are About To Die” series in the Ottawa Poetry Newsletter)), the versatility of her work is striking — gifs, visual pieces, poetry, book covers offer a glimpse into her skill as an illustrator and poet. Some of her work displays a kind of nostalgic lushness, combined with minimal text, filmic movement, in the vein of near conversations, or strayed thoughts, or cut offs. There is also humour and wit: Suzuki has an eye for incongruities and for leaving things out, her work erases the obvious.

I placed Suzuki’s poem, “A Swimmer”, beside a track going south on the Scotch Line Trail in Merrickville. This particular track is typically flooded, however, this summer was so hot that the marsh and track were dry for a couple of months mid-July to early September. It’s now flooded again, and to navigate it, you’d need boots or a small raft. A weekend or two ago, Grant Wilkins, known to the small press community in Ottawa for his lovely letterpress work and paper-making, among other things, joined me for a walk in Merrickville to check on some of the rout/e pieces, among them Suzuki’s. The track has re-flooded, but “A Swimmer” is in fine shape! Some of these images are from our walk; I’ve also included images from this year’s winter, spring, and summer seasons.



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