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Poet for the people


University of Calgary Professor Emeritus Fred Wah was recently named Canada’s fifth Parliamentary Poet Laureate, bringing his innovative and collaborative literary style to the national task of drawing Canadians’ attention to the reading and writing of poetry.

Poet, editor, novelist, teacher, mentor and volunteer, Wah was professor of English and creative writing at the University of Calgary from 1989 to 2003.

Wah has been writing and publishing since 1965. Author of five limited-edition chapbooks and 18 books, he has received major literary awards in three genres.

He is grateful for the opportunity to sustain poetry’s presence in the national imaginary. “My work as Parliamentary Poet Laureate will continue to engage poetry as it represents our homes and migrations, our questions of history and identity.”

The following are a selection of Wah’s poems, reprinted with his permission from his book Sentenced to Light, published by Talonbooks (2008). These poems are part of a series called “Articulations” written in a collaboration with Calgary artist Beverley Tosh, MFA’87, who taught at the University of Calgary from 1988 to 1998.

(bell theory)
Are you in the neighbourhood?
Scissors at hand.

Is this the blank for disaster?
No, the shot for the plan.

The rip that erases the target a rose?
That’s the temptation.

Do you really melt in fiction?
Indifferent to meaning.

Is a bell wood?
That is the theory!


(slips up)
Morning slips
Cloud scuttled night
What just happened re
Leased from the hook
Does the fish die?

Let’s remember rust
No fall’s that free
Over and over more slack
Sinking as permitted
Body washed ashore

Lapse irrevocable
Lips open and diving
Old hunger mouth, love
Wet lips and tongue bait
Syntax slips up.


Stick to you like pasture
Broken foreign chances

Writing more disaster
A tract of surplus bookings

Opacity in marching
Faking naked truth
Breathing through your toes
Climbing up the stairs

Forever playing thoughtful
Repeating disappearance

Stuck to you with patience
Breaking foreign changes

Waiting for disaster
Attracting back the meaning

Facing all the numbers
Sighing by the stove

Obeying all the stars
Taking off your clothes

Rather let this murmuring
Remember all the prayers

See original story on U Magazine.