An audience of about 80 people assembled in Vancouver a week ago, on October 29, wine and cheese in hand, for the launch of Scree: The Collected Earlier Poems, 1962—1991 by Fred Wah, which collects 13 out-of-print or rare books and chapbooks by this former Poet Laureate of Canada.
First, the book’s substantive editor, poet-scholar Jeff Derksen, introduced Scree and the set of readers for the evening. (His introduction was rated 10/10 by a member of the Vancouver poetry community – and we agree!)
Fred Wah discusses Scree at its launch
Scree rests on the podium – possibly the very same Western Front podium from which Wah read in 1974
The readers sat up front in the audience of more than 80 people. (L–R: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Daphne Marlatt, Roy Miki, then Jeff Derksen, Karl Siegler, and Stan Persky
A number of literary luminaries read Wah’s work: Colin Browne read from Grasp the Sparrow’s Tail; Ryan Fitzpatrick read from Owners Manual; Deanna Fong read from Grasp the Sparrow’s Tail_; Larissa Lai read from Waiting for Saskatchewan; Daphne Marlatt read from Breathin’ My Name with a Sigh; Roy Miki read from Owners Manual and So Far; Stan Persky read from Tree; Karl Siegler read from Loki Is Buried at Smoky Creek (the Selected poems — part of a group of poems that later became Owners Manual); and Rita Wong read from Breathin’ My Name with a Sigh.
Karl Siegler, retired publisher of Talonbooks, observed that the publication of Scree and last year’s Peacock Blue represented a continuance, or a second incarnation, of Talon’s 1980s project of publishing a series of Selected works by Canadian poets (including Wah and Webb). It is, we agree, heartening to see the tradition alive.
In the second half of the evening, the audience was treated to a few minutes of footage of a younger Wah reading his work, taken in 1974, also at the Western Front (possibly even with the very same podium Wah was using in 2015!). Wah himself then read the final poem of the book.
Wah reads from Scree
Jeff Derksen, editor of Scree and emcee of the launch
Kevin Williams, publisher at Talonbooks, thanks all who worked on Scree while, in the background, one book cover transitions into another on the screen
Scree is such a satisfyingly weighty tome
Wah also made a point of thanking managing editor Greg Gibson, formerly of Talonbooks, and designer Les Smith for their very hard work, and for the fruit it bore. The hardcover edition of Scree is now available ($49.95). The softcover edition will be available in Fall 2016.
All told, it was a wonderful, memorable evening.
Plus, great news! The whole event was captured on video, and we are very pleased to share the high-quality, full-length footage with you now.
Critically acclaimed poet and Vancouver native Adeena Karasick was in her hometown last month to celebrate the donation of her archive to Simon Fraser University. The Collection of Contemporary Literature at SFU’s Bennett Library contains one of the biggest selections of avant-garde poetry in North America.
All the main characters in this novel are invented, except one. All the towns are real, except for New Babylon. But if such a place were to be imagined, it would be a Wild West town where gunfights are fair play and the law bans only the lawman. It is a perilous place, where the beauty of the desert landscape takes your breath away with the same power as an open blade and a gash to the throat.
On that gruesome note, we hope you enjoy this teaser, lifted from pages 36–38 of In Search of New Babylon.
Migration – the movement of humans from one place to another with the intention of settling – has been top of mind in recent weeks given certain political changes and policy implementations in certain western countries, in recent months in response to the failure of state in Syria and the outflow of refugees from that region, and in recent years characterized by a heightened sensitivity to the possibility of east-west terrorist attacks. Perhaps Canada is a beacon to other states? Or perhaps we still have much learning to do? In the spirit of learning, we recommend twelve Talon books on the topic of migration, refugees, and the immigrant experience.
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