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Fred Wah: On the literary edge

Fred Wah, Parliamentary Poet Laureate and faculty with In(ter)ventions, presenting in The Club. Photo: Meghan Krauss.

Fred Wah, Parliamentary Poet Laureate and faculty with In(ter)ventions, presenting in The Club. Photo: Meghan Krauss.


Accomplished writer. Parliamentary Poet Laureate. In(ter)ventions faculty. Fred Wah and I sat down over lunch to chat mostly about that last role. This is the fifth year Fred’s been involved with In(ter)ventions, and when I think about that program title I wonder what, exactly, are they intervening?

After our chat, I’ve discovered that In(ter)ventions is a literary arts program for experimental approaches to writing. It’s not as simple as moving print into a digital form, though that’s part of the conversation. Instead, it’s really about taking an interdisciplinary approach to producing text, and finding new ways to tell stories. In fact, as Wah tells me, he got interested in the program because of the interdisciplinary nature of his own work.

Wah has been coming to The Banff Centre since the 1960s, and he’s taken many visual arts programs, including one that partnered Mexican and Canadian poets and photographers. That collaboration led to his book Sentenced to Light. But, as he says, “In(ter)ventions is really the first time Banff has approached that cross-disciplinary context from a literary point of view.”   Continue Reading →

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“Literature is ours and we should use it however we want”

Writer JR Carpenter, at Literary In(ter)ventions. Photo by Don Lee.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been spending my Thursday evenings at the Literary In(ter)ventions performances in the Club, and they’re far from traditional public readings.

“We’re bringing the cross-overs, the hybrids, and the energy of mix into literary arts,” says writer and practitioner of electronic literature, JR Carpenter, at The Banff Centre as faculty for In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge. “Whether out of a dissatisfaction with some perceived limit, or out of general inquiry, our participants are bleeding the edges, and blurring boundaries of literature. With our presentations we’re encouraging reading in a different way, thinking of texts in a different way, and we’re exploring how a reader moves texts around in their minds.”

“I really think literature is ours and we should use it however we want,” she says. On February 16, Carpenter presented her digital literature piece called Along the Briny Beach. It mixes computer-generated poetry and quotations from well-known texts – Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter – and shows how literature can be placed into different contexts depending on how it’s presented.

She says that Literary In(ter)ventions encourages writers to step away from a traditional literary medium. “Somebody who has traditionally been a poet could suddenly be working in installation, with data projectors and audio.”

The unpredictable mix of artists and methods is key to In(ter)ventions.  “I think everybody’s intervention is different, and this program allows people working in very different areas and coming from different directions to meet,interact, and discover.”

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