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One life, 110 pages

May 09th, 2021

Matsuki Masutani of Denman Island covers a lot of ground in I will be more myself in the next world (Mother Tongue $19.95).

His writes of growing up in Japan, marrying a Canadian, moving to Vancouver and later the Gulf Islands, experiencing his elder years, ill health and having grandchildren.

He utilizes a minimalist style, artfully expressing his reflections in few words, but what he conveys is vast.

For example, the first poem, which gives the book its title, begins: “I am/ more than/ my body/ more than/ what I think./ I am/ more than/ what I do/ what I did/ and what I will do.//

Then, Masutani expands even this range of what a life is in the final verse: “Actually/ I am/ more than/ what I am/ in this world/ and I feel/ I will be more myself/ in the next/world.”

In addition to being a poet, Masutani is also a translator and one of the early artists he worked with was the multidisciplinary painter, photographer and poet, Roy Kiyooka (1926 – 1994). It was Kiyooka who encouraged Masutani to write poetry in both English and Japanese, and both languages are included in this collection.

Masutani often ends his poems with an unexpected twist. When he met his wife while travelling in Kathmandu, he says they stayed in “the travellers’ lifestyle” even while raising their children: “We are still in travellers’ mode bumbling around in cafes and thrift shops in the neighbourhood,” he writes, concluding, “going nowhere.”

He shares that he ran away from his father in Japan, “to find out who I was.” Forty years later, “I look back at my father and wonder, who he was.”

Undergoing cancer treatment and feeling like he is dying, Masutani is told to “embrace” the chemo bottle around his neck. But he is afraid of the bottle that the nurse calls “a baby bottle.” Nonetheless, he makes a resolution: “I must make my life more worthy.”

He survives only to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. His wife tells him, “You were young for a long time and suddenly, poof, you’re an old man.”

In the final poem, Masutani turns mystical as he watches his newborn granddaughter sleeping. “Sometimes she shudders like a bewildered insect, a mystery from the other world.”


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