Anakana Schofield – Author of Martin John and Malarky

On listening to Fred

I have had the good fortune now to attend two writers festivals with Fred Wah and I vow in future to make better notes when listening to him, however I am generally so captivated listening to him I suspend that activity. During his recent solo reading event at the Denman Island Writers Festival he talked about writing out of some kind of ethics and how his practice moves through a variety of themes. He also discussed ideas as a way of solving practice, according to my notes, but I wonder if I was in error with my pen and in fact he talked of ideas as a way of solving problems. Poets seem to be forced to explain to audiences why it’s useful to engage with poetry. They seem required to provide explanations and to have to broach with audiences that they need to be prepared to be challenged. I think it indicates where we are at and where we need to move along the river bank to or even back down the river to. Some of the more ambitious and compelling work in this country is being done through poetic forms.

Fred read from several works including his poetry collection Is A Door. Several of the poems referenced Hurricane Isadora when she hit Mexico. Being a weather fanatic I appreciate weather in poetry and it brings Gerry Gilbert to mind and Lisa Robertson. Fred also read from Diamond Grill which he calls bio-fictions or bio-prose-poetry. Again I recall the words bio-fictions being used. He’s a lively fella is Fred. I insisted my teenager attend one reading throughout the entire festival and it was Fred’s.

We had a conversation outside in the sunshine or rather I quizzed Fred on some of the historic groupings in BC poetry movements and who was who with which work and which poets occupied which places and spaces ensemble.

I wish my notes were not so sparse on listening to Fred. Next time I shall scribble. I shall say to myself no Fred I am scribbling and listening not listening and failing to scribble incase afterwards I may fail to recall.

I did ask what he was reading and it was a collection of essays by Lucy Lippard called The Lure of the Local. I am very happy to have learned about Lucy Lippard’s work and shall trot off and buy it and read it.

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I have just discovered that November 2013 will see another collection of correspondence between Charles Olson and Frances Boldereff published. After Completion: The Later Letters is edited by Sharon Thesen. I appreciated the first collection, mostly for the extraordinary Ms Boldereff. Must reread the latter half of that collection again before November comes. I salute Sharon Thesen for her labour in putting these two collections together.

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