A golden roll of poets last night at the Anza Club, with readings by Colin Browne, Jeff Derksen, Daphne Marlatt, Roy Miki, emcee George Bowering, and Fred Wah, whose latest book, is a door (Talonbooks), provided the occasion.
The event was called Fred Wah and Friends, and it felt that way. Friends being broadly defined to include those Wah went to school with, edited (with), taught (with), argued with (and for), travelled with (and to), breathed the same air as with his most enduring motif, the sigh.
That sigh was in evidence all night, coming from Fred’s own mouth, but echoed in the mouths of others: from Derksen’s latest long poem (“socialist one-liners” that, among other things, relate the language of commerce to the gating of public space) to Marlatt’s wind-swept gull(iver) to Bowering’s portrait of Fred in Curious (1971), a book which is to Vancouver what Stein’s portraits (of Matisse, Picasso, Sherwood Anderson…) were to Paris.
During the break I spoke with Oana Avasilichioaei, who, like myself at SFU, is UBC’s writer-in-residence, and Sonnet L’Abbe, whom David Chariandy introduced me to.
After the readings I shared a beer with Jean Baird and George -- when who should come over but Montrealers Andre Farkas and Tom Konyves, Vehicule poets in town for a reading. I believe it was another Vehiculian, Ken Norris, who wrote in Beyond Tish how inspired they were by what Vancouverites Bowering, Wah, Marlatt and others were doing in the early-1960s.
Then suddenly it was over. Not with the lights going up and shouts of, Last call! but with another kind of sigh, the noise I make when my head hits the pillow.