Poetry News

Sachiko Murakami on Beauty at Lemon Hound

By Harriet Staff


Since September, Sue Sinclair has been interviewing poets for Lemon Hound about their relationship to beauty.  She's spoken to Sonnet L’Abbé, Robyn Sarah, and Steven Price. And just posted today is her interview with poet and artist Sachiko Murakami.

For a little context, we recommend that you read Sinclair's introduction to the series. She begins by discussing how Modernism changed our relationship to beauty:

As art critic Arthur Danto tells it, the modernists by and large rejected traditional beauty, and art in the years that followed grew increasingly “ugly” on the one hand and conceptual on the other. Some say that beauty was handed over from art to advertising.

Danto’s narrative may not be the whole story, but it does seem true that beauty has rarely been talked about in art circles in the last century. Even today you don’t see it much, at least in literary life—when was the last time you read a serious book review that discussed the book’s beauty?

Sinclair notes that, in the 1980s, many critics and theorists in the art world were interested in a "return to beauty." The conversation, however, seemed limited to visual art, which made her wonder if there was any such shift happening in poetry. "I started wondering about the general feeling toward beauty among poets in my country," she writes. "I hadn’t heard much about it, so I started asking."

And we're glad she asked Sachiko Murakami. Here's what Murakami says about the relationship between beauty and messiness:

I think I work towards the ideal of what I would call sounds-true in my poems. That metaphor sounds true – it stays. That line needs to be broken there for the sense to couple properly and sound true – it stays. That sounds forced – it goes. That sounds wrong – it goes.

I worry about the preciousness of lines and the perfectly uttered phrase. I think sounds-true sometimes sounds messy, sounds grating, sounds bumpy. I hear myself getting lofty and working towards sounds-perfect when I’m writing – you know, poetic – and I have to stop myself from taking myself too fucking seriously. That was the impulse behind the rewriting/rebuilding of poems in Rebuild – to loosen my attachment to the Beautiful.

You'll find the rest of this interview, as well as others in the series, on Lemon Hound.

Originally Published: February 14th, 2013