beholden Front Cover

Paperback / softback
ISBN: 9781772012118
Pages: 160
Pub. Date: December 1 2018
Dimensions: 8.25" x 10" x 0.5625"
Rights: Available: WORLD
Poetry / POE023040

  • POETRY / Canadian
  • POETRY / Subjects & Themes / Animals & Nature
  • POETRY / Subjects & Themes / Places

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a poem as long as the river
By Fred Wah & Rita Wong

Comprised of two lines of poetic text flowing along a 114-foot-long map of the Columbia River, this powerful image-poem by acclaimed poets Fred Wah and Rita Wong presents language yearning to understand the consequences of our hydroelectric manipulation of one of North America’s largest river systems.

beholden: a poem as long as the river stems from the interdisciplinary artistic research project “River Relations: A Beholder’s Share of the Columbia River,” undertaken as a response to the damming and development of the Columbia River in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon, as well as to the upcoming renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty. Authors Fred Wah and Rita Wong spent time exploring various stretches of the river, all the way to its mouth near Astoria, Oregon. They then spent several months creating long poems along the Columbia, each searching for a language that evoked the complexities of our colonial appropriation of it. beholden was then assembled as a page-turning book that reproduces the two long poems as they respond to the meanderings of the river flowing two thousand kilometres through Canada, the United States, and the territories and reserves of Indigenous Peoples. Visual artist Nick Conbere then transferred this winding footprint into a monumental, 114-foot horizontal banner.

beholden: a poem as long as the river “reads” the geographic, historical, political, and social dimensions of the Columbia River, literally and figuratively, proposing two contrasting kinds of attention. As both a stand-alone poem and an accompanying piece to the visual installation exhibited at various galleries, beholden represents a vital contribution to a larger dialogue around the river through visual art, writing, and public engagement.

Short-listed 2019 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize

"A stunning book that reminds us the Columbia has a 'dignity that cannot be taken away, not by the buzz of wires, not by the hum of highway, not by induced amnesia, because water remembers.'"
—Geoffrey Nilson, Coast Mountain Culture

"The fun that these two fine writers had in engaging with the Columbia is evident in the wordplay of the poetry"
—Frances Boyle, Canthius

“We should [applaud] this productive, politically grounded, and aesthetically inventive work.”
—Stephen Hong Sohn, Asianamlitfans

“Fred Wah and Rita Wong’s beholden: a poem as long as the river (Talonbooks) will appeal to the art-obsessed or the environmentally engaged.”

"The book is a homage to the Columbia, a reverent celebration of its life-giving water, its flora and fauna, and the Indigenous people who protected and protect the river."
—The Ormsby Review