Fred Wah, a quintessential Canadian poet, read at an informal poetry reading and discussion at VIU October 25. Wah endeavored to explain his lifelong project, Music at the Heart of Thinking, which is comprised of several volumes. In describing its original conception, Wah said “music at the heart of thinking started at an intersection in Winnipeg in 1980. The radio was playing Doug and the Slugs. I misheard the title ‘music for the hard of hearing’ as ‘music at the heart of thinking.’” Wah continued his humour-laced, down-to-earth talk to inspire students to take an idea and run with it. Inspiration can come out of mistakes as often as successes. He said, “I ran the concept of music through how one thinks [about] language. Poetics force us to think harder about the steps of thought and what is necessary and impactful.”
After reading from several volumes, Wah took some time to answer questions. When asked about the importance of meaning in poetry, Wah responded, “it doesn’t have to make sense. Doesn’t have to mean something. [It’s] the only form we have where language can simply just play around and be an event. [Poetry] doesn’t give the syntax any privilege about where you are. Still conveys the meaning. Almost more so because a reader needs to think more about each word.”
Between three creative writing classes, various VIU students and other guests, the reading had a large turnout with approximately 75 people in attendance. This was a large crowd for any poetry reading on campus in the recent past.
Keep an eye out for Portal’s coverage of Fred Wah as the 2017 Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poet in their upcoming 2018 issue.