Including poetry projects, a chapbook and incidental poems previously published in magazines and by small presses, is a door makes use of the poem’s ability for “suddenness” to subvert closure: the sudden question, the sudden turn, the sudden opening—writing that is generated from linguistic mindfulness, improvisation, compositional problem-solving, collaborative events, travel, investigation and documentary—in short, poetry as practice.
Part one, “Isadora Blue,” is grounded in the author’s encounter with the smashed and broken doors along the hurricane-devastated waterfront of Telchac Puerto, a small village on the north coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. It resonates throughout the other three sections of the book, with its attention to hybridity and “between-ness”?a poetic investigation of racialized otherness—and the composition of “citizen” and “foreigner” through history and language.
Part two of this series of poems, “Ethnogy Journal,” written during a trip to Thailand and Laos in 1999, hinges around aspects of “tourist” and “native.” Here the poems play in the interstices of spectacle, food and social sightseeing.
Much of this poetry is framed by Wah’s acute sense of the marginalized non-urban local “place” and coloured by his attempt to articulate senses of otherness and resistance, or writing the “public self,” particularly in the book’s third section, “Discount Me In”?a series of sixteen poems from his discursive poetic essay “Count Me In.”
The fourth section, “Hinges,” is tinted with portraits of the social subject mired in a diasporic mix, a metanarrative trope in Fred Wah’s work that began with Breathin’ My Name With a Sigh.
Characteristically playful and compositionally musical, this is poetry that watches both sides of the doorway: unsettled, unpredictable, closed and open. Sometimes the door swings and can be kicked. Sometimes it’s simply missing. Sometimes it’s a sliding door.
Fred Wah was one of the founding editors of the poetry newsletter TISH. Of his seventeen books of poetry, is a door received the BC Book Prize, Waiting For Saskatchewan received the Governor-General’s Award and So Far was awarded the Stephanson Award for Poetry. Diamond Grill, a biofiction about hybridity and growing up in a small-town Chinese-Canadian café won the Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Fiction, and his collection of critical writing, Faking It: Poetics and Hybridity, received the Gabrielle Roy Prize.
“These four sequences are what we once called trips, not so much to Mexico and Thailand and the Koots, as out of syntax toward a world in which words are things indeed, or at least are treated as such. You may feel as if you’ve had a stroke and are trying mightily to read right. Predicates can appear as if out of the dark. This is where Wah has been leading us, conscious as all get out, innocent as a lynx. This is what happens to a language when someone finally gets it away from the people it was named after.”
— George Bowering