How is a door Got Its Name

Next year marks the tenth anniversary of Fred Wah’s is a door : to celebrate, Talon takes a look back at how the book got its name.


A couple months after Hurricane Isidore swept northwest through the Caribbean and up through the Gulf of Mexico, Fred Wah visited the Yucatán Peninsula with a group of Canadian and Mexican writers and photographers – collaborators who’d originally met in Banff.

“In Mérida, there was quite a bit of devastation,” says Wah. “An hour north, on the coast, it was totally devastated.”

Fascinated by all the broken doors and windows scattered around Mérida and Telchac Puerto, Wah followed the lead of the photographers in the group, taking pictures and writing poems.

Doors had come up in Wah’s previous work, notably Diamond Grill, and the door was already an important metaphor for him – “a zone,” he says, “in between two oppositions or differences, a place that’s troubled by its own betweenness, but a place that has a great many advantages as well.” Seeing the devastation in the Yucatán added, for Wah, to the energy around the notion of the door as a site of destruction and upheaval.

And then there are the resonances: puerta means “door” or “gate” in Spanish, and is a door maps neatly onto Isidore, the name of the hurricane that rooted the doors out from their jambs and rendered their doorways open – or partially open – portals.

Read a poem from is a door :

Isadora Blew

Isadora blew and blew the sea the sand the blue boards sky high waves smashed broke and splintered shutters white walled water over roof (it’s true!) and filled the floor with beach roar but you’d be too to start the day as blue sky-blue could fool you too now look at the misery you can see right through poor sad and lonely one she knows you’ll spend your nights alone and never know how much nobody’s missed somebody’s blue yeh! ain’t this storm come through my door tellin’ you