Hybrid Details: Honoring Fred Wah: with Fred Wah, Wo Chan, Mark Nowak and Jeff Derksen

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2016-04-12 22:53Z by Steven

Hybrid Details: Honoring Fred Wah: with Fred Wah, Wo Chan, Mark Nowak and Jeff Derksen

Asian American Writers’ Workshop
112 West 27th Street, 6th Floor
New York, New York 11366
Wednesday, 2016-04-13, 19:00 EDT (Local Time)

Poet Fred Wah is a living legend in Canada, but he remains woefully under-read in this country. To remedy that, we’re celebrating Fred’s oeuvre–a jazzy, radical exploration of place and racial hybridity–and the publication of Scree: The Collected Earlier Poems, 1962–1991 (Talonbooks 2016). We’ll have Fred himself, on a rare visit from Canada, and acclaimed poets Wo Chan, Mark Nowak, and Jeff Derksen.

A hapa poet who grew up in his father’s Chinese restaurant, Fred is the winner of the Governor General’s Award (Canada’s highest literary award), served as the country’s fifth Parliamentary Poet Laureate, and was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2013. He has been compared to the American experimental poets–like the Language Poets and Objectivists Charles Olson and Robert Creeley, with whom he studied–but Fred’s work is informed by his identity growing up in a Chinese-Irish-Scots and Swedish household and his relationship to the countryside of British Columbia. A self-described “Kootenay boy,” Wah has said, “My writing has been sustained, primarily, by two interests: racial hybridity and the local, the landscape of the Kootenays in southeastern BC; it mountains, lakes, and forests.” The editor of several important Canadian literary journals (TISH, Open Letter, West Coast Line), Fred is the author of more than twenty books of poetry and prose, including Waiting For Saskatchewan (Turnstone 1985) (this Governor’s General award-winner explores Saskatchewan, “a place that held, for me,” Fred states, “the complications of a mixed-race family history and the geographical site for an Asian-European intersection”) and Diamond Grill (Edmonton: NeWest Press, 1996), a coming-of-age collection based on childhood memories working at his father’s Chinese restaurant. Scree collects almost a half century of work, ranging from visual poetry and jazzy riffs to Black Mountain-style open poems about the Canadian landscape to new narrative prose poems and Haibun. As the poet Rob McLennan writes, “The dialogue between Fred Wah’s earlier works tests the possibilities of a poetics of place, of a syntactic dynamism opened by the North American postwar experiments in form and a push against the Western box of knowledge (a push that is threaded through 1960s counterculture up to the globalization of the early 1990s).”

Three award-winning poets will read and comment on Fred’s poems: Wo Chan and Mark Nowak. A queer Fujianese poet and drag performer, Wo Chan was a 2015 AAWW Margins Fellow, as well as the recipient of fellowships from Poets House, Kundiman, and Lambda Literary; read Wo’s poems Such as and Chopped in The Margins. Guggenheim Fellow and former labor organizer Mark Nowak is the author of Shut Up Shut Down (Coffee House Press 2004, afterword by Amiri Baraka), named a The New York Times “Editor’s Choice,” and the acclaimed book on coal mining disasters in the US and China, Coal Mountain Elementary (Coffee House Press 2009), which Howard Zinn called “a stunning educational tool.”

Moderated by Simon Fraser University Professors Jeff Derksen. A poet and theorist at the nexus of geography, cultural production, and globalization, Jeff co-founded Vancouver’s writer-run centre, the Kootenay School of Writing. He has written several books including The Vestiges (2013), Transnational Muscle Cars (2010) and Annihilated Time: Poetry and Other Politics (2010), all from Talonbooks.

Co-sponsored by the Manhattanville MFA program

For more information, click here.

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How Canadians celebrate their identity — it’s all in the hyphen

Posted in Articles, Canada, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2015-08-09 05:34Z by Steven

How Canadians celebrate their identity — it’s all in the hyphen

The Toronto Star

Eric Andrew-Gee, Staff Reporter

Hyphenated identities — Ukrainian-Canadian, Somali-Canadian and the like — have played an outsized if ambiguous role in Canada.

The Canadian poet Fred Wah is a bard of hyphens.

He has described them, variously, as “a boundary post,” “a chain,” “a bridge,” “a knot,” and “a floating magic carpet.”

In his work, hyphens do more than glue surnames together and solder on prefixes. They are also skeletons of the self — giving shape to, among other things, Wah’s own Scottish-Irish-Chinese-Swedish-Saskatchewanian heritage.

It’s not a coincidence that one of Canada’s most distinguished writers of verse would concentrate so much creative power on the humble punctuation mark: hyphens have played an outsize, if ambiguous, role in the history of identity in this country.

They have acted as a knot — sometimes securing, sometimes restricting — and their meaning has mutated over time, from boundary post to bridge, first marking people out, then connecting worlds.

Along the way, the hyphen has budded into a kind of metaphor for what we think it means to be Canadian.

American political culture, with its melting pot ideal, has long been hostile to multiple, punctuated identities. Then-U.S. President Woodrow Wilson described them as tantamount to treason, using his own vivid metaphor, in a 1919 speech:

“And I want to say — I cannot say it too often — any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Scree: The Collected Earlier Poems, 1962–1991

Posted in Anthologies, Asian Diaspora, Books, Canada, Media Archive, Poetry on 2015-08-08 21:46Z by Steven

Scree: The Collected Earlier Poems, 1962–1991

640 pages
6 W x 9 H inches
Hardcover ISBN 13: 9780889229471; ISBN 10: 0889229473

Fred Wah

Edited and Introduction by:

Jeff Derksen, Associate Professor of English
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

Fred Wah’s career has spanned six decades and a range of formal styles and preoccupations. Scree collects Wah’s concrete and sound poetry of the 1960s, his landscape-centric work of the 1970s, and his ethnicity-oriented poems of the 1980s. Fred was a founding member of the avant-garde TISH group, which helped turn Canadian poetry, in the West in particular, to a focus on language. He has said that his “writing has been sustained, primarily, by two interests: racial hybridity and the local.”

Most of Wah’s early work is out of print. This collection allows readers to (re)discover this groundbreaking work. The volume contains:

Lardeau (1965)
Mountain (1967)
Among (1972)
Tree (1972)
Earth (1974)
Pictograms from the Interior of B.C. (1975)
Loki Is Buried at Smoky Creek (1980)
Owner’s Manual (1981)
Breathin’ My Name with a Sigh (1981)
Grasp the Sparrow’s Tail (1982)
Waiting for Saskatchewan (1985)
Rooftops (1988)
So Far (1991)

The collection has been organized according to a chronology of composition (rather than a chronology of original publication): this reveals new connections and thematic trajectories in the body of work as a whole, and makes the book an eminently “teachable” volume. The book includes full-colour facsimiles of two early books, Earth and Tree, reproduced to show the “hands-on” object-based aspect of chapbook publishing.

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A short interview with Fred Wah

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Canada, Interviews, Media Archive on 2015-08-08 19:05Z by Steven

A short interview with Fred Wah


Rob McLennan

Fred Wah was born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan in 1939, but he grew up in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia. He studied music and English literature at the University of British Columbia in the early 1960s where he was one of the founding editors of the poetry newsletter TISH. After graduate work in literature and linguistics at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and the State University of New York at Buffalo, he returned to the Kootenays in the late 1960s where he taught at Selkirk College and was the founding coordinator of the writing program at David Thompson University Centre. He retired from the University of Calgary in 2003 and now lives in Vancouver. He has been editorially involved with a number of literary magazines over the years, such as Open Letter and West Coast Line. His work has been awarded the Governor General’s Award, Alberta’s Stephanson Award for Poetry and Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Fiction, the Gabrielle Roy Prize for Writing on Canadian Literature, and B.C.’s Dorothy Livesay Prize for Poetry. He was Parliamentary Poet Laureate 2011-2013 and he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2013. He has published over 20 books of poetry and prose. Recent books include Sentenced to Light, his collaborations with visual artists, is a door, a series of poem about hybridity, and a selected, The False Laws of Narrative, edited by Louis Cabri. A recent collaboration, High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese, An Interactive Poem, is available online (http://highmuckamuck.ca/). His current project involves the Columbia River. Scree: The Collected Earlier Poems, 1962-1991 will be published by Talonbooks in the fall of 2015.

Q: I’m curious about your tenure as Poet Laureate. From 2011 to 2013, you were Canada’s fifth Parliamentary Poet Laureate, following in the footsteps of George Bowering (2002–2004), Pauline Michel (2004–2006), John Steffler  (2006–2008) and Pierre DesRuisseaux (2009–2011). In hindsight, what do you feel you were able to bring to the position, and do you feel your tenure was a successful one? What did the position allow you to do that you might not have been able to do otherwise?…

Read the entire interview here.

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2014 National Poetry Month Poem of the Day: Fred Wah

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Canada, Media Archive on 2014-12-08 20:44Z by Steven

2014 National Poetry Month Poem of the Day: Fred Wah

Turnstone Press
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

“Waiting for Saskatchewan,” the title poem for the book, arose out of an event that occurred in Nelson, BC on a winter night in the early ’80s. We had been anticipating an exhibition of art from Saskatchewan about to open at a local art gallery when we were advised that the show would be delayed due to heavy snows over Kootenay Pass, preventing delivery of the art. So I took the poetic hint and used the phrase to meditate on my own historically tethered relationship to Saskatchewan, a place that held, for me, the complications of a mixed-race family history and the geographical site for an Asian-European intersection, a kind of hyphen that I have used to construct a personal imaginary. The poem is a biotext that offers the space to measure the accumulation of particularities and apprehensions, dreams, and memory. The poem is one way to remember the future.

Fred Wah on “Waiting for Saskatchewan”

Waiting for Saskatchewan
and the origins grandparents countries places converged
europe asia railroads carpenters nailed grain elevators
Swift Current my grandmother in her house
he built on the street…

Read the entire poem here.

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Waiting For Saskatchewan

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Books, Canada, Media Archive, Poetry on 2014-11-28 19:28Z by Steven

Waiting For Saskatchewan

Turnstone Press
96 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-0888011008

Fred Wah

Winner of the Governor General’s Award for Poetry 1985

Wah interprets memory—a journey to China and Japan, his father’s experience as a Chinese immigrant in small Canadian towns, images from childhood—to locate the influence of genealogy. The procession of narrative reveals Wah’s own attempts to find “the relief of exotic identity.”

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Hapa-palooza 2014 celebrates three giants of mixed-heritage

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Canada, Media Archive on 2014-09-29 19:28Z by Steven

Hapa-palooza 2014 celebrates three giants of mixed-heritage

Vancouver Observer
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Jordan Yerman

An artist, a scientist, and a poet: Hapa-palooza honours Kip Fulbeck, Ann Makosinski, and Fred Wah.

What am I? I’m what’s on your spoon when you pull it out of the melting pot!!” So writes a subject in California-based artist Kip Fulbeck’s photo series “part asian, 100% Hapa“.

“The Hapa Project” just opened at the Nikkei National Museum, which also hosted Hapa-palooza’s inaugural Hip Hapa Hooray awards. The evening honoured three key figures in North America’s mixed-heritage community, who come from different generations and exceed in different disciplines.

Hapa-palooza co-founders Zarah Martz, Anna Ling Kaye, and Jeff Chiba Stearns presented awards to Fulbeck, inventor Ann Makosinski and poet Fred Wah

Read the entire article here.

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I’m quite interested in thinking about that notion of the hyphen. That little thing that’s in-between. Let’s say, “Chinese-Canadian”…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2013-08-20 01:27Z by Steven

“I’m quite interested in thinking about that notion of the hyphen. That little thing that’s in-between. Let’s say, “Chinese-Canadian,” or “Japanese-Canadian.” I like to challenge those two poles, those two hegemonous poles who want to claim a part of me. Because I feel like I’ve lived in-between and I like the in-between.  It’s a place that I would like to spruce-up a bit. I like to, you know, put some nice furniture in the in-between place.” —Fred Wah

Anne Marie Nakagawa, “Between: Living in the Hyphen,” National Film Board of Canada, (2005): 00:0:28-00:01:02.

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Between: Living in the Hyphen

Posted in Arts, Asian Diaspora, Canada, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Videos on 2013-04-05 00:35Z by Steven

Between: Living in the Hyphen

National Film Board of Canada

Anne Marie Nakagawa

Anne Marie Nakagawa’s documentary examines what it means to have a background of mixed ancestries that cannot be easily categorized. By focusing on 7 Canadians who have one parent from a European background and one of a visible minority, she attempts to get at the root of what it means to be multi-ethnic in a world that wants each person to fit into a single category. Finding a satisfactory frame of reference in our ‘multicultural utopia’ turns out to be more complex than one might think. Between: Living in the Hyphen offers a provocative glimpse of what the future holds: a departure from hyphenated names towards a celebration of fluidity and being mixed.

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Appointment of a new Parliamentary Poet Laureate

Posted in Articles, Canada, Media Archive on 2012-11-29 03:50Z by Steven

Appointment of a new Parliamentary Poet Laureate

Parliament of Canada

December 20, 2011 (Ottawa) – The Speaker of the Senate, the Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Honourable Andrew Scheer, today announced the appointment of Fred Wah as Canada’s next Parliamentary Poet Laureate [2011-2013], effective immediately. Mr. Wah is the fifth poet to hold this office.

“As a distinguished poet, editor, and teacher Fred Wah is known across Canada for his interest in a range of subjects,” said Speaker Kinsella. “Mr. Wah brings forth a collaborative approach and unique perspective to his work inspiring younger poets, students and others both nationally and internationally with his reflections on Canadian culture.”

“Fred Wah’s poetry is grounded in Canada’s political and social landscapes,” said Speaker Scheer. “He has done much to encourage and promote the importance of literature, culture and language within Canadian society.”

Mr. Wah was selected by the Speakers upon the recommendation of the Selection Committee composed of Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages; Daniel J. Caron, Deputy Head and Librarian and Archivist of Canada; Robert Sirman, Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts, and Sonia L’Heureux, Assistant Parliamentary Librarian.

Reflecting on his nomination, Fred Wah intends to share his enthusiasm for new poets and artists, and will bring to the position the passion and dedication he brings to all his work. “My work as Parliamentary Poet Laureate will continue to engage poetry as it represents our homes and migrations, our questions of history and identity. I’m grateful for the opportunity to sustain poetry’s presence in our national imaginary.”

Mr. Wah has been writing and publishing since 1965. Author of five limited-edition chapbooks and 18 books, his repertoire includes the 1986 Governor General Award-wining poetry book Waiting for Saskatchewan. Fred Wah has consistently challenged and thrilled readers and has had a major influence on multiple generations of writers…

Read the entire press release in HTML or PDF format.

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