Anakana Schofield – Award Winning Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

Ideas do not have walls

“Ideas don’t have walls is my feeling.” This was a tweet I posted this morning in the aftermath of the National Forum on the Literary Arts which the Canada Council for the Arts organised in Montreal this past week and at which I was privileged to be a participant. I acknowledge that privilege and understand if you were not present this may irk you. However I caution do not withdraw from the gesture of the conference. You too can participate in this ongoing discussion. There will be outlets online for you to air your views responses and to challenge what emerges. It was two days of rigorous engagement and exchange in both French and English (also some Mohawk spoken by the wonderful Janet Rogers) between 250 different people in the literary arts sector from coast to coast . It was a progressive and visionary idea for the council to organize such an event. I will write in more detail about what I heard, once I have gathered some sleep. The tweet I posted was in response to physically being in the room. I made the choice to tweet what I was listening to like a maniac. This was both immensely challenging with the bilingual language factor, hearing a delayed and sometimes erratic translation (this is no reflection on the translator more that people passionately expressing themselves, sometimes do so forcefully and in a fragmented, esoteric manner) and enormously satisfying. It was satisfying because I began to have engagement from people outside the room, outside the province etc. There was a sense of people relying on me to transmit what I was hearing.

Now we can bring ideas to each other through these new mediums like twitter.

So let’s bring each other into and out of the rooms we are privileged to be invited into and let’s invite those to join us, who can’t make it physically into the space because virtually we are united (or we can unite?). This is quite a remarkable feeling or realization.

We have to up the standard of public discourse around literature. I refuse to settle for this predetermined factional vs Pavlov choice of “acceptable” response. If we are to engage critically in ideas about our literature, we must be prepared to disagree and accept it is valid to disagree. Ideas are departures, they are not the station at the end of the line. We have to be prepared to listen for what it is we don’t know, what we may not have considered or contemplated or heard before. It has to be about working for the greater good not just the singular, or self interest.

Again, thank you to all the people at the forum and the Canada Council and its partners, the staff who worked so hard at the event both in advance organizing and during it.



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