MIKI, Roy




Author Tags: Japanese, Kidlit & Young Adult, Poetry

Few Canadian writers have been more successful in both literature and politics than Roy Miki, a sansei, or third-generation Japanese Canadian. Working with his brother Art, the leader of the Japanese Canadian redress movement, Roy Miki played a key role in obtaining financial compensation from the federal government for camp internees and their families. [Photo: Roy Miki, in front of the Canadian flag, stands between Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Art Miki during the signing of the Redress Settlement.] Roy Miki's 2004 book, Redress: Inside the Japanese Canadian Call for Justice has chronicled those events. He has subsequently received an unprecedented string of honours during the 2006-2007 period, making him one of the respected professors and writers in British Columbia.

In 2002 he won the Governor General's Award for Poetry for his collection called Surrender, which challenges the official history relating to the internment of Japanese-Canadians in the 1940s. Two years later Miki chronicled the long and ultimately successful fight for compensation in Redress. It includes Miki�s personal and family histories as an examination of race and (in)tolerance in Canada. "I always felt the dichotomy between our pre-internment and post-internment lives," he told the Simon Fraser University News in 2005. "There was the mythical and glorious world of the Fraser Valley with its great weather and landscape that my parents told me about, and then there was this God-forsaken place called Manitoba. I always had a feeling of having been sent into exile."

One year later, on October 2, 2006, Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, Miki received the 20th annual Gandhi Peace Award and the 16th annual Thakore Visiting Scholar award for his commitment to Mahatma Gandhi�s ideals of truth, justice, human rights and non-violence in regards to his his long and outstanding achievements related to redress. This award was created in 1991 by former SFU faculty member Natverlal Thakore to recognize those who have displayed a consistent concern for truth, justice and non-violence. In the same year Miki received the 2006 Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy, and he was admitted to the Order of Canada for his contributions to community and the arts.

Roy Miki was born in 1942, six months after his parents were uprooted and shipped from Haney to a sugar beet farm in Ste. Agathe, Manitoba. After growing up in Winnipeg and attending university, Roy Miki and his older brother Art went to live in Japan where he discovered he felt more Canadian than anything else. Upon his return to Canada in the 1970s, he met individuals such as Rick Shiomi and Randy Enomoto who were increasingly concerned with the need for redress.

Roy Miki and Art Miki were at the forefront of the successful Redress Movement which Roy Miki has chronicled with Cassandra Kobayashi in Justice in Our Time: The Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement. The movement led by the National Association of Japanese Canadians was complicated by the interventions of a faction led by George Imai of Toronto who did not believe individual compensation would be possible. The Japanese Canadian community of Canada galvanized their support for the NAJC in response, electing Art Miki to the position of president in 1984. In that year the NAJC successfully pressured Conservative leader Brian Mulroney to make a campaign promise to negotitate a redress settlement. The NAJC had already presented Prime Minister Trudeau with an accounting of cumulative losses prepared by the Vancouver office of Price-Waterhouse, estimated at not less $443 million in 1986 dollars. With the Miki family at the forefront of the NAJC's efforts, individual redress was achieved in 1988. [See Joy Kogawa entry.]

As a longtime professor of English at Simon Fraser University, Roy Miki is the author of an extensive 320-page annotated bibliography of George Bowering that won the Gabriel Roy award from the Association for Canadian and Quebec Literatures as the best book on Canadian Literature for 1991. He has also edited two books about the work of poet bpNichol; Tracing the Paths and Meanwhile: The Critical Writings of bpNichol; plus Pacific Windows: Collected Poems of Roy K. Kiyooka, winner of the 1997 Poetry Award from the Association of Asian American Studies. As a social activist and historian, he has edited This Is My Own: Letters to Wes and other Writings on Japanese Canadians, 1941-1948 by Muriel Kitagawa. [See Muriel Kitagawa entry.] As well, Miki is a musician, poet and editor of West Coast Line: A Journal of Contemporary Writing and its Modernist Sources. His other titles include Random Access File, Saving Face: Poems Selected 1976-1988, There and Broken Entries: Race. Subjectivity. Writing. Essays. The essays in Broken Entries reflect his participation in the redress movement from the late 1980s to 1997.

Miki received a 1997 poetry award from the Association of Asian American Studies. His fifth poetry collection, Mannequin Rising, according to New Star Books, "describes a world of consumerism, and answers the visual cacophony of commodities and window displays with a series of poems and photomontages that reflect the uncanny juxtapositioning he sees all around him." Miki observes mannequins in shopping areas of Kitsilano, Granville Island and Tokyo.

Roy Miki appeared on the BC Bestsellers List in October of 2014 after he contributed text for a children's book, Dolphin SOS (Tradewind 2014), co-authored with his wife Slavia Miki and illustrated by Julie Flett. Based on true events, Dolphin SOS recounts the story of three dolphins trapped in an ice-covered cove on the coast of Newfoundland. After the government fails to provide assistance, some young boys take matters into their own hands in order to save the distressed dolphins. The book received the Christie Harris Illustrated B.C. Book Prize in April of 2015.

He lives in Vancouver.


Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
In Flux: Transnational Shifts in Asian Canadian Writing

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS:

This Is My Own: Letters to Wes and Other Writings on Japanese Canadians (Talonbooks, 1985) ISBN 0-88922-230-4; $24.95

Tracing the Paths: Reading� Writing The Martyrology (Talonbooks, 1988) ISBN 0-88922-256-8; $24.95

Saving Face: Poems Selected 1976-1988 (Turnstone, 1991)

Justice In Our Time: The Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement (Talonbooks, 1991). Co-edited with Cassandra Kobayashi. ISBN 0-88922-292-4; $29.95

Random Access File (Red Deer College Press, 1995)

Pacific Windows: Collected Poems of Roy Kiyooka (Talonbooks, 1997) ISBN 0-88922-378-5; $29.95. Editor.

Broken Entries: Race. Subjectivity. Writing. Essays (Mercury 1998) ISBN 1-55128-059-0 $19.95

A Record of Writing: An Annotated and Illustrated Bibliography of George Bowering (Talonbooks, 1990) ISBN 0-88922-263-0; $29.95

Meanwhile: The Critical Writings of bpNichol (Talonbooks, 2002). ISBN 0-88922-447-1 $24.95

Surrender (Mercury Press, 2001) ISBN 1-55128-095-7 $15.95

Redress: Inside the Japanese Canadian Call for Justice (Raincoast, 2004) ISBN 1-55192-650-4 $34.95

There (New Star, 2006) ISBN 978-1-55420-026-9 $18.00

Trans.Can.Lit: Resituating the Study of Canadian Literature (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2006)

Reshaping Memory Owning History: Through the Lens of Japanese Canadian Redress (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2009), with Yuko Shibata and Michiko Ayukawa

Mannequin Rising (New Star Books 2011). Miki's fifth collection of poetry. 978-1-55420-056-6

Dolphin SOS (Tradewind 2014) with Slavia Miki. Illustrations by Julie Flett $17.95 9781896580760

INSPIRED BY ROY MIKI

Tracing the Lines: Reflections on Contemporary Poetics and Cultural Politics
in Honour of Roy Miki (Talonbooks 2013, $24.95) Edited by Maia Joseph, Christine Kim, Chris Lee, and Larissa Lai. 978-0-88922-694-4

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2014] "Racism" "Japanese" "Poetry"

This Is My Own: Letters to Wes & Other Writings on Japanese Canadians, 19411948(Talonbooks)
Article



When the B.C. security commission ordered the evacuation of 23,000 Japanese-Canadlans, Roy Miki's parents were shipped to the Prairies from Haney in April of 1942. His mother was four months pregnant with him.

"I was 'raised' in an internment setting in Manitoba," says Miki, an SFU English prof, "It was a sugar beet farm. Most people don't realize that the conditions for Japanese-Canadians who went to the Prairies were generally much worse than in B.C. At least in the B.C. interior people could have a sense of communal suffering. But in Manitoba the labour conditions and housing were often horrific and we were kept isolated from one another." His parents wanted him to conform, to study dentistry, law or medicine. These were the favoured professions because a Japanese-Canadian could clearly serve the public while being 'invisible'.

"My parents were really disappointed when I had leanings towards poetry and literature," he says, "Literature was taboo because it was expressive. It might make you stand out. A Nisei artist like Roy Kiyooka, for example, was highly abnormal. You were supposed to blend in."

In studying Canadian writing Miki favoured writers who spoke directly and personally about immediate experiences, who had a sense of Canada being comprised of local diversities, and who were not using conformist traditions.
"One of the reasons I eventually came to the West. Coast was not only my Asian roots out here,' he says, "but because of the attraction of West Coast writing. People like George (Bowering) in the Tish group (at UBC) actually took pride in place."

Haunted by a sense of his lost community, Miki became active at the forefront of the Japanese Redress movement and edited a book by and about B.C. journalist Muriel Kitagawa, This Is My Own: Letters to Wes & Other Writings on Japanese Canadians, 19411948(Talonbooks $29.95 $15.95).

As the editor of Line magazine at SFU for five years, Miki has developed his interest in documentation, the social conditions of writing and writing as a daily activity rather than only 'literature' as a finished product. A mutually inclusive interest' writing has now led to the June release of a book examining unconventional author bp Nichol, Tracing the Paths (Talonbooks $14.95).

"To me the best Canadian writing is writing that is truly 'open' to the world, not dominated by pre-conceived notions," says Miki, "In this way bp Nichol is the quintessential Canadian writer.

"By virtue of his openness he has a 'world' view that encompasses much more than himself. For many years he has been considered a fringe writer but I think as time goes by he'll be seen more and more as representing the important concerns of writing in Canada."

Roy Miki's next project will be the publication of an exhaustive George Bowering bibliography.

[BCBW Summer 1988]

Miki Scores Honours Hat Trick
Press Release (2006)


from Simon Fraser University
October 06, 2006

SFU English professor and Governor-General award-winning poet Roy Miki is the winner of the 2006 Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy, his third significant honour this year.

The unique prize recognizes those who question conventional wisdom and includes a $5,000 honorarium which will be presented at a free public event to be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 11 at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue, 580 W. Hastings. Miki, a key force behind the Japanese Canadian redress movement, will read from his recent book Redress: Inside the Japanese Canadian Call for Justice (Raincoast).

In August, Miki was admitted to the Order of Canada for his contributions to community and the arts. Earlier this month, he received the 20th annual Gandhi Peace Award and the 16th annual Thakore Visiting Scholar award for his commitment to Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals of truth, justice, human rights and non-violence.

“I am honoured by this recognition,” says Miki, “and I would like to see the creation of more awards that recognize struggle. Most awards simply recognize achievement, but it’s important to acknowledge people who have gone against the system in order to eventually improve it.”

There by Roy Miki (New Star $21)
Review



What’s the difference between “here” and “there”? As P.K. Page wrote decades ago in a prophetic piece about global warming, “only an inconsequential little letter t.”

Roy Miki, whose previous book won a Governor General’s award, offers a kaleidoscope of words, neither lyrical nor confessional, in There. The words tumble and re-tumble in seemingly random connections without narrative thread except for the interconnections of travel. Miki’s poems are set on, at least, three continents. In every place there is some collision between the local and the global, the present and memory, often tense. Readers can easily tire of being hectored about globalization but Miki pulls it off because his mode is metonymy not lecture.

“Dumbfounded associations
in the pinball micro drama
hosted by a disheveled memory
bank of accruing global debts
The world bank on my back
to rein deficits and cut losses
by slicing off the surplus syntax”

Miki’s reeling associations left this reader dumbfounded but fascinated. Puzzling and for-midable but not forbidding, these poems reward a second, diligent reading; “the hologrammic undertow finally proves disarming.” As well, There contains oblique references to Miki’s Japanese Canadian heritage.

“O ghostly gatekeeper on the shore
We come from lands beyond your lonely ken
We come on hobbled wings of a dream of riches
Our credentials stowed in this modest furoshiki
Believe me we are not a burden in a bundle of sticks
We never hurl idiosyncrasies at just any crass wall...”

Though never an easy read, the multiplicity of voices in overheard snatches is intense. Photos and photomontages set in the text, beautifully reproduced in colour, provide welcome visual relief. Miki’s work is exciting! Someone has to do it; stretch the limits of language to open up the borderlands of poetry. 1-55420-036-1

-- Review by Hannah Main-van der Kamp, who writes mainly from Victoria.

[BCBW 2007] "Poetry"


There by Roy Miki (New Star $21)
Review



What’s the difference between “here” and “there”? As P.K. Page wrote decades ago in a prophetic piece about global warming, “only an inconsequential little letter t.”

Roy Miki, whose previous book won a Governor General’s award, offers a kaleidoscope of words, neither lyrical nor confessional, in There. The words tumble and re-tumble in seemingly random connections without narrative thread except for the interconnections of travel. Miki’s poems are set on, at least, three continents. In every place there is some collision between the local and the global, the present and memory, often tense. Readers can easily tire of being hectored about globalization but Miki pulls it off because his mode is metonymy not lecture.

“Dumbfounded associations
in the pinball micro drama
hosted by a disheveled memory
bank of accruing global debts
The world bank on my back
to rein deficits and cut losses
by slicing off the surplus syntax”

Miki’s reeling associations left this reader dumbfounded but fascinated. Puzzling and for-midable but not forbidding, these poems reward a second, diligent reading; “the hologrammic undertow finally proves disarming.” As well, There contains oblique references to Miki’s Japanese Canadian heritage.

“O ghostly gatekeeper on the shore
We come from lands beyond your lonely ken
We come on hobbled wings of a dream of riches
Our credentials stowed in this modest furoshiki
Believe me we are not a burden in a bundle of sticks
We never hurl idiosyncrasies at just any crass wall...”

Though never an easy read, the multiplicity of voices in overheard snatches is intense. Photos and photomontages set in the text, beautifully reproduced in colour, provide welcome visual relief. Miki’s work is exciting! Someone has to do it; stretch the limits of language to open up the borderlands of poetry. 1-55420-036-1

-- Review by Hannah Main-van der Kamp, who writes mainly from Victoria.

[BCBW 2007] "Poetry"


Miki receives career achievement award
News Release (2007)



Simon Fraser University English professor Roy Miki, a Governor General award-winning poet, is the recipient of a career achievement award from the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of British Columbia (CUFA/BC). He received the honour at the association’s annual Distinguished Academics Awards ceremony held in Vancouver on April 11.

Miki’s 1998 book, Broken Entries: Race, Subjectivity and Writing, built on his earlier academic work and the public impact of Joy Kogawa’s 1980 novel Obasan, about the Japanese internment in Canada, to help establish Asian Canadian literature as a legitimate and important field of study.

Miki’s most recent honours include SFU’s Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy, the Gandhi Peace Prize, and an Order of Canada.

CUFA/BC represents more than 4,300 professors, instructors, professional librarians and other academic staff in B.C.

Tracing the Lines
Press Release (2008)



TRACING THE LINES:
A Symposium on Contemporary Poetics
and Cultural Politics to Honour Roy Miki
May 28th to 31st, 2008
Vancouver BC

Following Roy Miki's exemplary work as a socially engaged poet, editor, activist, critical theorist, and teacher, the symposium will address the challenges of linking intellectual and political work while imagining spaces of freedom and production.

Beginning with a reading by Roy Miki on Wednesday evening, the event will consist of three evening events (May 28, 29, and 31st) and two days of creative/critical panels and presentations addressing the reach of Miki's work and its literary and social contexts. Topics include contemporary poetics; politics of the imagination; the role of the public intellectual; asiancy; editorial activism; and the history, politics and art of redress. To facilitate ongoing discussion and debate, there will be no concurrent sessions.

Writers, scholars, and artists participating include Jeannette Armstrong, Michael Barnholden, Marie Annharte Baker, George Bowering, Louis Cabri, David Chariandy, Susan Crean, Wayde Compton, Jeff Derksen, Phinder Dulai, David Fujino, Monika Kin Gagnon, Hiromi Goto, Marwan Hassan, Smaro Kamboureli, Larissa Lai, Jacqueline Larson, Chris Lee, Tara Lee, Walter K. Lew, Ashok Mathur, Daphne Marlatt, Kirsten Emiko McAllister, Scott Toguri McFarlane, Cindy Mochizuki, Mark Nowak, Baco Ohama, Grace Eiko Thomson, Fred Wah, Rita Wong, and Jerry Zaslove.

For program details and other information, see

-- Asian Canadian Studies Society
342-East 5th Ave, Vancouver V5T 4H6