If Murakami were a poet...
February 17, 2009 9:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm reading more poetry lately and am wondering what poets/poems have a similar vibe to Murakami. I love his vivid language and surreal spins on daily life.

For me, it's incredibly easy to visualize his writing. The knife and floating platforms in “Hunting Knife”; cryptic halls and bathing employees in “Dabchick”; raining sardines and talking cats in Kafka on the Shore. I could draw portraits for all his characters.

His taste for the surreal gives me a sense of awe for the banal and commonplace.

What poems would a Murakami fan enjoy?
posted by Korou to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I'll be following these answers with interest, as I do like a wide array of poetry, but have never read Murakami. Some of the Spanish poets might be a good start?

Neruda, Lorca... depends on the translation though.
posted by SaharaRose at 9:28 PM on February 17, 2009


I don't know if you're asking for specifically Japanese poets or not, but insofar as she captures a certain material/consumerist aesthetic, and certainly finds a sense of wonder in the commonplace, you might look into Machi Tawara's poetry. (Tawara's homepage and Wikipedia entry.) Her maiden work, "Salad Anniversary" ("Sarada Kinenbi") has been translated into English and is a particular favorite of mine.

She does not (to my knowledge) go to the surreal lengths that Haruki Murakami does, but there are some commonalities.

If you are looking, specifically, for modern Japanese poetry, you're going to find your options pretty limited unless you happen to read Japanese. There's just not much in translation; a victim, one supposes, of poetry's decreasing relevance to mainstream readership in this country.
posted by pts at 9:30 PM on February 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Maybe Robert Frost...I know that sounds weird, but Frost is actually very dark and has an element of the surreal about his work. Of course, there are some obvious differences too. But I am a Murakami fan, and I like Frost.

Also, Yeats in his more visionary/cryptic modes. He often gives the sense of stepping out of everyday life into some other world, which parallels Murakami. "Sailing to Byzantium" is an obvious example.
posted by taliaferro at 9:58 PM on February 17, 2009

I haven't read Murakami (I know, I know--I'm the only person in an MFA program who hasn't, I'm sure), but Matthea Harvey is a nicely surreal modern poet. I'm also a big fan of Richard Siken, whose works are weird and dream-like enough to freak out my poetry students.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:02 PM on February 17, 2009

Murakami is one of my 3 favorite authors. You might like The Dream Songs by John Berryman. It's not the same kind of surrealism as Murakami, much more American, but it's a weird little world once you get into it.
posted by hellogoodbye at 4:51 AM on February 18, 2009

It's possible you might like Charles Simic.

Another poet to consider is Mark Strand.

Finally, John Ashbery.

All three of these poets are usually described as surrealistic, and some of their work also includes prose poems.

Clicking on the links will get you to these poets' Poetry Foundation page, where you can read a short bio and find links to quite of few their poems. You can figure out fast if any of them at all suit you.
posted by subatomiczoo at 5:59 AM on February 18, 2009

Murakami is less of a surrealist than he is a magical realist, in my opinion, so the Neruda and Lorca suggestions above might be perfect, especially if you don't mind (or even prefer) the certain stilted quality that accompanies even the best translations. So check out Borges, César Vallejo, and Octavio Paz too. Another good source of lightly surreal poetry in translation is the Vintage Contemporary Book Of World Poetry.

In English the suggestions above are good, except Frost, who would probably get his shotgun if he saw Murakami hop his fence whimsically. Frank O'Hara is the grand papa of Ashberry and Strand, along with Kenneth Koch, Charles Bernstein, Paul Durcan, and so on.

If you like rhymes, and who doesn't, check out XJ Kennedy and Denise Duhamel. All the childlike wonder you desire plus lovely language.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:08 AM on February 18, 2009

On preview, Ashbery and Simic jumped to mind for me as well.

You might also try Andrei Codrescu and Stephen Dobyns, based on what you say you like about Murakami's prose. Also, the late Roberto Bolaño is a big deal these days (because of his novels The Savage Decectives and 2666) but maybe his poetry would fit the bill as well, though it mixes quite a bit of down-and-dirty crudeness with the surreal imagery, which might not be to everyone's taste.
posted by aught at 8:22 AM on February 18, 2009

I also meant to add that, of the younger ("post-avant") generation of innovative American poets, a few who might be in the ballpark of what you're asking for are Anselm Berrigan, Lisa Jarnot, Catherine Daly, K. Silem Mohammed, and Chris Stroffolino. If their books are not in your library or local bookstore, read what you can of their works on the web, and if you like one or more of them you might try ordering from Small Press Distribution.
posted by aught at 8:35 AM on February 18, 2009

How about Russell Edson?

Here's one of his that I like:

The Fall

There was a man who found two leaves and came
indoors holding them out saying to his parents
that he was a tree.

To which they said then go into the yard and do
not grow in the living room as your roots may
ruin the carpet.

He said I was fooling I am not a tree and he
dropped his leaves.

But his parents said look it is fall.
posted by exceptinsects at 11:39 AM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

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