The music of thinking. The thinking of music. Music at the Heart of Thinking is a poetry that works through language as the true practice of thought and improvisation as the tool that listens to and notates thinking. From jazz, the unpredictable ad lib driving itself from itself. From a drunken Shaolin monk, the poem as imbalanced tai chi. From Keats’s negative capability, the half-closed eye, the estrangement of language. All intended to bump beyond the end of the word into focus. As a response to readings in contemporary texts, art, and ideas. Music at the Heart of Thinking relocates critical language and thinking to the poetic bavardage at the heart of such endeavours. The poetics that generates these texts arises out of a lifelong poem project that has its roots in the long poem genre of the ’80s and its interest in the resistance to closure and the containment of meaning characteristic of the lyric. This book continues the work of two previous out-of-print publications, Music at the Heart of Thinking (1987) and Alley, Alley Home Free (1990). The poems are generated as textual responses in the reading, looking, and listening of the poet’s attention to his cultural milieu. Thus the writing addresses contemporary texts and art over the past forty years. Within this poetry of estrangement lie possible coherences for some sense of writing as a notation for thinking as feeling. The difficulty of this writing is literal and intentional, wary of any attempt to make thinking simple, easy, or predictable.
Fred Wah studied music and English literature at the University of British Columbia in the early 1960s, where he was one of the founding editors of the poetry newsletter TISH.
He has published books of poetry, fiction, and criticism. His book of prose poems, Waiting For Saskatchewan, received the Governor General’s Award in 1986, and So Far was awarded the Stephanson Award for Poetry in 1992. Diamond Grill, a biofiction about hybridity and growing up in a small-town Chinese Canadian cafe was published in 1996 and won the Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Fiction. Faking It: Poetics and Hybridity was awarded the Gabrielle Roy Prize for Writing on Canadian literature in 2000, and is a door won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize in 2009.
Wah was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2012. He served as Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate from 2011 to 2013.
"Wah’s has always been a poetic simultaneously engaged with breath and quick thought, language and deep meditation on being, identity and theory, and Music at the Heart of Thinking provides an ongoing example of just how powerful a master can be."