Landmark laureate vists Open Text

“I’m just faking it,” Fred Wah smiles cheekily, admitting that the story he just read was made-up. He had just about everyone fooled. Wah’s “bio-fiction” stories, a blend of reality and his own imagination, are keeping the whole room entertained. And there are a lot of us. Arbutus 314 is packed, with people standing at the back and even more peering in through the door.
It’s the first reading in this year’s Open Text series, organized by the Creative Writing Program. The series brings in writers from all over Canada to read in order to give students an opportunity to talk to writers about their personal writing processes. It’s open to the general public as well, though I’d venture that most of the people here are Creative Writing students. The series is also being used to fill the fourth hour requirement for several classes.
Earlier in his life, Wah played jazz trumpet. When he switched from music to writing in the early 60’s, he kept many jazz conventions, and he continues to treat poetry like jazz, incorporating improvisation into his poetic style. “Musicians love to play around,” he says, “and so do poets.”
He also persuades new writers to get involved with each other and self-publish, rather than sending their work only to established publications. After all, “It’s really only poets who are reading other poets.” Wah explains that writing is not an isolated activity, but a way to not be alone.
In regards to his writing style, Fred Wah spends a lot of his time tackling “the tyranny of the sentence”. His prose-poetry style bio-fiction stems from a wary attitude towards his memories, and his books are often collaborations with visual artists and photographers. For Wah, everything is a mix of fiction and nonfiction.
Speaking with the author after the reading, I asked him what it means to be a writer. “Sometimes it’s a job,” he told me, “sometimes it’s a business, but basically it’s a desire. It’s a need.” Fred Wah is a perfect example of someone who writes to fill a need, and pushes others towards the same goal of self-fulfillment. His new book, is a door, is being launched at the Anza club on Sept 30th.
The next author in the Open Text series is Angela Carr, coming from Montreal, on October 8th. The organizer, Roger Farr, promised to try and find a better location, so there may even be seats for everyone. For more information on the series go to:

Sarah Vitet

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