BIFB Side Project: September, Sachiko Murakami, The Invisibility Exhibit

The Bare it for Books Calendar, sold in support of PEN Canada, is chock full of naked Canadian authors who stare at me from my wall and keep track of all my social engagements. It only made sense to read a book by each author in the month they grace. Click here for more info.


“Last week’s headlines.

Wrapped fresh meat.”

Sachiko Murakami’s first collection of poetry casts an eye on the missing women of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. For me, the most striking poem was the simply titled News. It’s possible that because I work in news, the media angle hit me hard, but I think it’s more than that. The stark imagery immediately gripped me, and so many thoughts flooded my mind. It’s one of the shortest works in the whole collection but I feel like I could talk the most about it, such a compelling, nuanced story in less than 30 words.

The whole thing paints a picture of people so naturally absorbed by their own lives. The butcher’s patron hasn’t done anything wrong exactly, or different from what most people would. Last week’s headlines don’t have anything to do with him. Not directly anyway. But should they emotionally? As someone who works in news, it’s something I already think about – how can you make people care? Particularly when they’re inundated constantly about the plight of others who they don’t know and probably never will.

The title poem, The Invisibility Exhibit, also caught me. Written more like prose in way, the shortest of stories, it’s such a novel idea that sparks my imagination.

Invisibility is often envisioned as something powerful you should want to attain. It’s a top answer when people ask, what superpower could you have, if any? Murakami herself references “that old superhero’s trick.” Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak got him out of a lot of jams, and even James Bond drives an invisible car in Die Another Day. People crave the ability to make themselves vanish (and invisibility cloaks are slowly being developed for real).

But actually, how terrifying is that? What if no one ever saw you again, constantly overlooked and ultimately forgotten? Murakami turns the idea of invisibility as an advantage on its head. “You can sit in the chair and look through the mirror. You can actually feel like you aren’t even there.” What an uncomfortable thought.

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