Getting to know daryl muranaka and his new book hanami
When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover that you wanted to write poems?
When I was in the second or third grade, I had a make-up assignment to write a poem. I wrote something about a bluebird in couplets, not know what a couplet was. That poem is long gone, but that was the first. I tinkered in high school, but I really got started in college. I wanted to write songs, but was better at straight poems and then met Naomi Shihab Nye. She got me to commit more to writing poetry, helped me get started.
Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?
My routine has changed a lot over the years covered in Hanami. I don’t have a true routine per se. I do reserve sometime on my morning commute (I take the bus and T) and think about what I want to write. I like to mull over my ideas for a while before I attempt a draft. That step decreased my editing time by a lot. Drafts came out closer to what I envisioned that way.
Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?
Most of my poems start as ideas or a short phrase that pops into my head. I let myself forget it and then let it come back a couple of times before I write. Playing with the ideas has been a good thing for me, especially with two small children in the house. I sometimes say them out loud to them, because when the say them back to me, sometimes they change them in some pretty inspired ways.
But over the last couple of years, I’ve done a few writing challenges and so the poems had to come from some sort of “same day” inspiration. I kind of killed a writing spot for me because things dried up. There were two corners, one was a Starbucks and the other was a bench across the street. Both gave themselves up for the challenges, but I got a lot of good poems out if and then I moved to another town, so it was worth it.
Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?
The writers who’ve most influenced me are Naomi and Jim McAuley (my MFA advisor) on the poetry side. On the prose side I’ve always come back to Hemingway and Jim Harrison. Harrison is also becoming more and more important for one the poetry side too. I wasn’t that into his poetry when I was in my MFA years, but as I’ve gotten older, he’s grown on me.
Tell us a little bit about your new collection: what's the significance of the title? are there over-arching themes? what was the process of assembling it? was is a project book? etc.
Hanami is my first collection and so I’ve been tinkering with it for years. It’s also undergone several major revisions, including name changes. In the end, I chose Hanami as the title, although the title poem wasn’t ever intended for that role. “Hanami” is a Japanese word for “flower viewing,” specifically cherry blossom viewing. When I lived in Japan—I was there for three years after my MFA—that first spring was something I had looked forward too. I traveled around my prefecture to see various events. One of the amazing images was when a strong breeze blew and the petals danced in the air. Eventually I started to look at the various poems in the collection—images of life swirling and whirling this way and that—that way. I’ve also described the book as a record of my life that I’m leaving to my children before I forget who I was.
Read a sample poem from Hanami and view a recording:
Uncle sold koi,
and when he died,
I sat watching them
swim for hours.
Their metallic white
with ponds of red,
black, and orange,
glinted in the light.
They moved with
the slowness that
centuries had given them.
Circling in his
Uncle would stand
at the edge
to show them off,
to calm the heart
that would kill him,
like fins through
water. I do not
immortal any more.