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From Brandt to Wah

November 5th, 2012 by Colin Martin

We keep moving west; this week shifting from Di Brandt to Fred Wah’s _Waiting for Saskatchewan_.

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  • In reading “Waiting for Saskatchewan”, I found some poems much easier to understand than others, for I found them very emotional and relatable. Those poems that I found easier to understand were the poems on pages 7 to 14, which I understood as Wah’s grieving and longing to his father to passed away. Although my parents are still alive and healthy, both of my grandfathers and one of my aunts have passed away, and the longing of a family member who has a part of my memories was relatable to the words on the pages. On page 7, the poem was about an event before his father passed away, when Wah hurt his father unintentionally, and understood his father much later when he himself became a father. No matter how much I love my parents or other family members, there were times when I have hurt them and they have hurt me, unintentionally. While I still have my time with my parents and I can mend my mistakes of hurting them, I would not have any chances anymore with my grandfathers, and this poem made me realize that there will be a time in the future when I will understand how I hurt my grandparents, just like Wah have found out, and that makes me feel so sad, ashamed, long for them and our times together, and just wish that I could go back. The poem on page 10, Wah wrote what has changed, what was coming after his father’s death to his father. I am a very slow person such that even during at the time of receiving news, at the time of the funeral, I did not “feel” that someone I love has died. When everything was over, and I’m all by myself, thinking just then how I won’t have someone who shared so much of my life and memories, and how I will go one, live, was when I finally realized that they were gone. Reading those poems, and writing this response, my emotions that were covered by daily life resurfaced. Those poems were very personal. For me.
    Kihyun Rah

  • In Wah’s poems I saw lot’s of his personal life reflected in those lines, and the recurrent theme of the “radicalization” which we have been discussing in authors such Dionne Brand and Di Brandt as well. It also remembered me Pratt’s poem in which asiatic people where object of discrimination. I found these lines really explicatory:

    You were a half-breed, Eurasian. I remember feeling the possibility of that word “Eurasian” for myself when I first read it in my own troubled adolescence. I don’t think you ever felt the relief of that exotic identity though. In North America white is still the standard and you were never white enough. But you weren’t pure enough for the Chinese either. You never knew the full comradeship of an ethnic community.

    In Wah’s poems I found that he wanted to bring up his heritage of son of a half- Chinese man,but also the relationship with him, that he nostalgically remembers when he passes away. You can never realize how is to be a father since you don’t become a father.

  • I wasn’t able to make it to Fred Wah’s reading Thursday, but I would have been enlightening to hear him read poetry. I struggled with the introduction poem in his book Waiting for Saskatchewan because I was trying to make sense of it line by line. With lines like “and the origins grandparents countries places converged,” you can see why the line by line method fails. It wasn’t until I repeated that line a few times that I finally saw that Fred Wah needed us to look at the single words in the lines. This was a complete shock to me, but understanding this really helped me throughout the book.
    On the topic of Wah’s introductory poem, he did a great job taking us into the life of a prairie boy living in Saskatchewan. He gives us a tour of his neighborhood, and then guides us down the railroad which “arrowed into downtown fine clay dirt prairies wind waiting.”
    The poem also introduces us to the larger picture of the reason Wah writes this first chapter; Wah is telling us the story of his sorrow. He is waiting for Saskatchewan to reveal to him his identity. Wah needed to know where he fit in the society of his town, and his country. He had to do this without a father. I am anticipating a heartfelt story.

    Raymond Luong

  • Hyphen.


    Like Fred Wah, I too am a hyphen. The longer we stay in Canada and marry each other, have children, co-habitate.

    more hyphens will we make. Growing up, not knowing which culture I belong to accepted by none impure a brand new

    race. \the Hyphens\. There are more of now than ever before soon hyphen will be the majority in Canada. perhaps this will

    end racism. Did the imperialists have any idea that their greed for land and material wealth would create a new era of human

    evolution? A friend moved to Budapest for work he was under the impression that all Hungarian men looked like me wrong

    he neglected to take my being a hyphen into account. Poor guy. my wife states how rare it for someone to have dark hair and

    blue eyes hyphen all the years I went to school I wondered why I never met someone who looked like me ate the food I

    ate English first name Spanish last name Hungarian grandparents confusing welcome to Canada.

  • To tell you all the truth, Fred Wah’s book ‘Waiting For Saskatchewan’ had my mind running in all directions but a clear understanding of what he is saying. My mind keeps trying to form an idea of the scene that he is portraying and it frustrates me that I cannot clearly see what he is trying to say. Di Brandt’s book was also not written in the conventional way but her’s I found easier to understand and that way I was able to paint a picture of what she was describing in my mind. This led to me trying to read Fred Wah’s poetry the same way I read Di Brandt’s, but then I realized that they are two extremely different writers and I cannot expect their poetry to be written in the same way. So then I tried a new method where I read Fred Wah’s poetry out loud and tried to think of the words individually and then I’d connect the ideas instead of reading the whole piece and then trying to figure out parts of it. Once I started reading the book like this, i realized that i actually likes Fred Wah’s poetry more than I originally thought I would. His poetry makes you think about so much more than just a clear cut scene and I started to like that. I’m not sure my understanding of his poetry is always the way he intended for it to be understood but the sections that I do believe I understand give me this” wow!” moment where I can connect to certain feelings and other parts where I wish I could be in his mind and fully experience some aspects of his poetry myself. For example on page 46 where he is on his trip to China and a man walks by him holding a baby, he sees the man brushing by his arm as intentional, he “sees” this man as his father. I just think it would be amazing to actually be him and feel the way he felt, and to then come back and read his poetry with that sort of visualization he must have when writing his poetry. So to conclude, I find Fred Wah’s poetry more and more interesting as I read it and I must admit I have to read over it a lot.

  • November 26, 2012

    The first section of Fred Wah’s “Waiting for Saskatchewan” is called “from Breathin’ My Name with a Sigh”. In this first section, it is apparent that the poems take on many forms and different styles of writing.

    The first poem in the section gives a little bit of background information on the poet and what the story will be about. It gives ideas on where the author is from, his background and how he is feeling. Pages 19-24 show the poetry written in the presentation of a hyphen. The hyphen shows hybridity and symbolizes the idea of being __________-Canadian. My parents are born in East Africa but I have an Indian heritage and was born and raised in Canada so I can relate to Wah in that regard. Sometimes it is difficult to understand who you are and where you belong when you are a “hyphen”. There have been times where I have felt like I am not fully Canadian even though I was born here and at the same time I am not fully Indian because I was born in Canada. These feelings can be difficult to understand and confusing. I can feel Wah’s pain and confusion through his poetry.

    The first few poems talk about life. On page four Wah says, “Relation speaks. Tree talks hierarchy loop subject returns. Knowledge a bag of things to be changed later to knowledge. Statement of instructions horoscope Way language reads reading out of order in order to speak to itself feed picked up lists family and complete branches/worlds end there.” He is talking about a family tree. It is hybrid. On page five he continues to talk about life and uses biology to discuss life. Then on page six, he begins to talk about death. He discusses his father’s death for the next few poems.

    Alyssa Mitha

  • In the section of Fred Wah’s book titled “Grasp the Sparrow’s Tail” there is a very unique format that I really enjoyed reading. At the top of each poem, in italics, there is a dated journal entry. He gives a brief summary of his day, nearly everyday, during his trip to Asia. Then below this journal entry is a poem expanding beyond just the physical and delves deep into the emotional aspects of his trip.

    What I found most appealing about this section was how Fred Wah describes seeing his deceased father everywhere. Fred Wah’s father was pure Chinese – but they lived in Canada, so most people did not look like him. Then when he went to visit China after his father passed, he saw so many people with the same distinct Chinese features as his father, and he felt like he was seeing his father everywhere. It is not uncommon for people of the same heritage to look alike, but in Canada we live in a huge melting pot, where people of all sorts of backgrounds come together to live as one. I can only imagine that his trip to China, and “seeing” his father everywhere, must have been a sad yet simultaneously joyful experience for Fred Wah.
    The other part of this section that I found very powerful was when he said, “I don’t let myself feel ‘foreign’ here” because although he is not accustomed to their way of life, and doesn’t partake in all their traditions, his father is one of them. That inherently makes him one of them too. He could easily act like any other tourist, and simply “witness” their culture, but he chose to get in touch with the Chinese in him and truly be one them.

  • I Found Wah’s Poem to be rich and resourcesful. First, Wah reflects on the struggles for Identity because he is niether Swedish nor Chinese. Therefore, Wah uses Dendrite Map part of the poem in waiting for Saskatchewan to claim that he is also Chinese. For instance, he says ” I am also chinese” Can you imagine how it feels to be discriminated against by your own country men. They even question his name Wah that is wah’s name sounds like foreigner. However, he demonstrated that he belongs to chinese people by using many imagery of his father and the connectivity with China’s art to show the reader that he is Chinese Man. Every male chinese that has those short dark hair always refer to as his father. This is like a missing Phalus for Wah.

  • It has been said that the role of the poet is to create an emotion. The emotion/s I felt while reading Fred Wah’s Waiting For Saskatchewan was most often a feeling anxiousness. Wah doesn’t follow any single form or present his poetry in a way that easily gives the reader a sense of process or purpose. It felt like he was giving me pile of random poems in multiple formats, from different times in his life and it was my job to draw the connections between them and find the purpose or value in them. I’m sure everyone reacts differently to his poetry, but this seems to me like a good example of one of Wah’s concepts of hybridity, or the “hyphen”. This style of throwing multiple aspects of his life simultaneously at the reader, stating his Chinese heritage, his father’s struggles with liminality, his Canadian childhood, his children, etc, may be him expressing himself as a hybrid. I wonder if is Wah saying that yes, I am all these things, Chinese-Canadian-Swedish-child-father-husband-poet, it may be messy and complicated, but that’s who I am.

  • I found Fred Wah’s book very difficult to understand until we began discussing it in class. Once we started discussing it in class, I realized that I had been missing the major motivation for the author’s initial poems. I had completely missed that he was so strongly affected by his fathers death, and without this realization, it made the poems that followed difficult to understand.

    After realizing this, the book became much easier to read. I began to see the meaning behind his poetry. It became clear to me that his fathers early death had made Wah very nervous about his own demise, and that he was in a way not “Waiting for Saskatchewan” but waiting to die.

  • I find Wah’s book quite complex and at times hard to read. When pressed for time I find no enjoyment in reading his work, it feels like just random words at times and random poems. However when I read the poems again at a slower more relaxed speed I find his work to be quite the opposite. I find his work very interesting and complex, like a puzzle that is unsolvable. It can be partially solved at a certain level but the true meanings to the poems will likely only ever be known to Wah. The poem on page 7 talks about his father hurting cause his children can’t stand the food, then it jumps ahead to Wah being in his fathers situation. Some of it is not as clear however, it begins with:
    \my father hurt-
    ing at the table
    still hurting
    at suppertime
    deep inside very
    far down inside
    because I can’t stand the ginger\.
    To me it sounds like his father was hurting before suppertime, before the meal. Its possible that he was hurting because his children did not like the meals, but it could be something else. It is never for certain. I find this makes the poems a little more interesting and leaves you to reflect on the poem more deeply.

  • In Di Brandt’s book “Questions I asked my mother” describes her trouble times as a women and also as a Mennonite. She goes in depth on the struggles faced as being an outcast yet she has problems also being a women and experiencing things others such as men will never know.

    On the other hand, Fred Wah’s “Waiting for Saskatchewan” displays the times he experienced while traveling to China. Wah goes into details on how he becomes closer to his Chinese heritage and how he “finally realized the full “truth”” on the views of Buddhism and how his experienced ever changed him. Also, thought Wah is also half Swedish he tries to fit into the Chinese yet the Chinese see him as a foreigner even though he is part Chinese and embraces it.

    Daniel Feng

  • I’ll definitely fess up like some of my classmates, that this book had me all but calm, cool, and collected in the beginnings. On that note, it is in these instances I am particularly thankful for 8 A.M. face time in order to hash out the gritty details among multiple minds. One characteristic of Wah’s writing that I enjoyed was the aspect of the bio-text that we were warned was coming. Not solely the earthly descriptions that lace his poems, but more specifically the scientifically charged metaphors he uses in illustrating phylogeny. For example, he relates the origin of one’s heritage to “magnetic lines across an ocean,” along which genetic material seems to migrate as various races integrate with one another. Sedimentary rock is the compilation of family names and stories, “left over slowly” to solidify and “become truths” of their genealogy. Wah’s incorporation of scientific terminology in a more worldly text emphasizes and reminds readers of the perpetual relationship and similarities we have with – oh yeah – what we’re made of!

  • For this week’s blog entry I’ll be discussing Fred Wah’s “Waiting For Saslatchewan”

    In the first poem of his book he writes of Saskatchewan and how he wants a sense of simplicity back in his life. From what I gather in Wah’s poetry, Saskatchewan is a very simple place physically, politically. But I have never been to Saskatchewan, so I do not know how that place can mentally impact you. However, I have been to Nelson and the Kootenays, where Wah has lived before and, I must say that, this area in the world is one of the simplest and relaxing places to be. I find it interesting that Wah is searching for simplicity in Saskatchewan rather than back in the Kootenays. Perhaps he feels a stronger connection with Saskatchewan because he has family there. I’ll assume that’s the reason. Family certainly does have the greatest impact on people’s decisions and now I understand the reasoning for his decision in Saskatchewan.

    Graeme Howard