Sentenced to Light
By Fred Wah
An astonishing series of unique collaborative image-text projects, Sentenced to Light privileges its poetic and formal textual space outside most of the images that are its original twins and offers the reader a glimpse of the dialectic of larger conversations, the unpredictable, ... Read more
An astonishing series of unique collaborative image-text projects, Sentenced to Light privileges its poetic and formal textual space outside most of the images that are its original twins and offers the reader a glimpse of the dialectic of larger conversations, the unpredictable, improvisatory bavardage that whispers between words and pictures in a space we call culture.
“Anecdotal Waters” is an invited response to a mixed-media installation by Mireille Perron and Paul Woodrow. “Articulations” was printed on a series of fifty paintings by Calgary artist Bev Tosh and incorporated in both an installation and a performance of the work. “All Americans” was serialized for an installation on the Minnesota Massacre of 1862. A biotext of landscape and memory, “Twain” consists of textual improvisations provoked by and situated alongside six poems that artist Marian Penner Bancroft applied directly to the walls among the photographs in her exhibition “By Land and Sea (Prospect and Refuge).” The alphabet of “jingo cards” was written for a collaborative performance piece with Vancouver multi-media artist Haruko Okano called “High Bridi Tea” that gestated years later into her jargon art project “Homing Pidgin.” “Pop Goes the Hood,” was written for a video-text performance commissioned from video artist Henry Tsang and poet Fred Wah. “Me Too” pays ghostly homage to the visual and textual work of Roy Kiyooka. The two “transcreations” are part of photographer Ernie Kroeger’s “Wild Writing” project that uses his photographically treated rubbings of the glyphs left by the Mountain Pine Beetle.
The series of ppretences (prose-poem sentences) was written for “Pays Maya,” a show of photographer Richard Baillergeon’s Yucatan images. In the title section, the prose-poem sentences stretch to comprehend the vanishing edges of lens, eye and syntax within Mexican photographer Eric Jervaise’s black-and-white photos, made with his hand-built panoramic view camera.
Fred Wah was born in 1939 in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, to parents of Swedish and Chinese origin. He studied Music and English at U.B.C. before shifting to Linguistics and Literature at SUNY Buffalo. From 1967-1989, Wah taught at Selkirk College and David Thompson University Centre in Nelson while living in South Slocan, raising a family and writing more than a dozen books of poetry. He taught English and Creative Writing in Calgary until his retirement in 2003. Wah was one of the founders of the groundbreaking TISH poetry magazine, which ran from 1961-1966. He has received major literary awards for his work, including the Governor General's award for Waiting for Saskatchewan. His So Far won Alberta's Stephanson Award, and is a door won the Dorothy Livesay prize for poetry. In 2011, Wah was appointed as Canada's Parliamentary Poet Laureate, the fifth poet to hold this office. Last year was he was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada for his groundbreaking work as a poetand for his contributions to the life of poetry in Canada. Currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Calgary, he divides his time between Vancouver and a seasonal home near Nelson.
“For those new to Wah’s work, Sentenced to Light provides an accessible and beautifully produced introduction to a major poet. For longtime readers, it offers a reminder that Wah, as he enters the fifth decade of his career, is continually returning to origins—to memory, vision, and the body—in renewing his poetry. ‘The cradle,’ Wah declares ‘is where I want to be.’”
“The cover as a composition is inspired like the whole book—there is a minimalism in it—it is so structured yet never over-wrought—the shadow of the figure and camera ‘producing’ the composition (literally) of the book fully—here then—I think—I place it next to Nichol’s Martyrology. I think too it’s as great, as astonishing as bissett’s major self-anthologized books. The ‘visual’ intelligence that informs this book is extraordinary! I admire it’s clarity—‘Sentenced’ so far is my favourite poem in the book but that says nothing—there are too many! His book is an exhibition, a performance, a documentary and the montage, its potency, is seamless. This book is an extraordinary gift.”
“One has the sense of Wah’s effort to catch inspiration in its everydayness and at its most raw and vital.”