Episode 47: Shuyin Yu interviews Fred Wah

Feb 15, 2023


In this interview, Fred Wah and Shuyin Yu discuss the conference, named after one of his first books, “Alley Alley Home Free,” held in Calgary to celebrate Wah’s retirement. Wah provides a detailed context for his Archival Tape. He also reflects on his relationship with bpNichol, Dennis Johnson, Hiromi Goto, Lisa Robertson and others. Yu and Wah discuss Wah’s writing process over the year and his views on digital humanities. We hope you enjoy this episode.


Fred Wah lives in Vancouver and the West Kootenays. He was Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate 2011-2013 and made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2013. His award-winning poetry, fiction, and non-fiction include Sentenced to Light, his collaborations with visual artists, is a door, a series of poems about hybridity, and Scree: The Collected Earlier Poems, 1962-1991 published in 2015. His latest writing involves the Columbia River ( as does his collaboration with Rita Wong, beholden: a poem as long as the river, published by Talonbooks in the fall of 2018. High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese, An Interactive Poem is available online ( and an adaptation of his bio-fiction Diamond Grill called A Door To Be Kicked was released as a radio play for Kootenay Co-Op Radio in 2021. Music at the Heart of Thinking: Improvisations was published by Talonbooks in the fall of 2020.

​​Shuyin Yu is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at the University of Calgary. Her research interests are East Asian diaspora studies, asexuality studies, and food studies in children’s and young adult literature and media. She received her H.B.A. from the University of Toronto and her M.A. from the University of Calgary.

Show Notes:

03:00 Adaptation of Diamond Grill A Door To be Kicked and High Muck a Muck

04:33 Context for Wah’s Archival Tapes (2001-2003) particularly focussing on the Alley Alley Home Free Conference (May 15th-18th 2003)

04:53 Mention of Wah’s 1987 book Music at the Heart of Thinking that was republished by Talon Books in 2020

05:40 Discussion of the long poem (or poetic prose) as connected to Ron Silliman and the new sentence

07:08 Continuation of Alley Alley Home Free and mention of the writer, academic, and organizer Pauline Butling

00:27 Tape recordings that were connected to Calgary Writer’s House and now housed as Spoken Word Concordia and UBC Okanagan, Penn Sound, Fred Wah Archives house through Simon Fraiser

10:07 Publisher Talon Books and potential future reprintings of his work

10:44 Red Deer College (since renamed Polytechnic) summer creative writing program and teaching with bpNichol and Dennis Johnson (publisher at Red Deer Press)

11:49 The tradition of the long poem in Canada and mention of bpNichol’s Martyrology

12:14 SFU Website digital archive and Deanna Fong who is managing it

12:51 Brief reading from Alley Alley Home Free: poems “Music at the Heart of Thinking 71” and  “Delphi Poem”

17:12 Quote from Tom Wayman about the “the ominously predictable ending”

18:57Guests like Aritha van Herk and Robert Kroestch at the Red Deer College summer creative writing program and the students like Christine Stewart, Lisa Robertson, Clint Burnham, and Nicole Markotić

22:21 Discussion of Wah’s stint as University of Alberta’s Writer in Residence program and the 3-day novel contest through Pulp Press—intro to biofiction/biotext and Diamond Grill

25:30 Authors connected to his teaching practice: Rita Wong, Hiromi Goto, Ashok Mathur, Susan Holbrook

27:30 Larissa Lai’s book of poetry Iron Goddess of Mercy and discussion of tea with the same name—traditional Japanese long from called the haibun

29:15 Continuation of Alley Alley Home Free conference and the topics that were presented on: race and writing, the lyric (or anti-lyric), engendering practices, concepts of faking it, hybridity, and mixed-race.

30:03 Some of the presenters: Nicole Marcotic, Susan Rudy, derek beaulieu, Doug Barber,

31:54 Concepts of race writing some of the authors that Wah worked with in this area: Roy Miki, Ashok Mathur, Weyman Chan

32:54 Discussion of Wah’s book of non-essays Faking It and is a door

36:16 The archival process and how one can intervent the archive itself—how can it be used in constructive ways and/or whether it should be used

37:09 University of British Columbia Okanagan campus’ Karis Shearer who is working on the original collection of 1963 Vancouver poetry conference tapes

38:31 Mention of the writer, poet, and translator, Erin Mouré

47:07 Mention of the experimental poet Christian Bök

50:08 Calgary Writer’s House as the precursor to TIA House: Canada Council funds and the start of the Markin Flanagan Distinguished Writers programme

51:56 filling Station magazine and the Issue 21 launch with Jill Hartman, Louis Cabris (who wrote Mood Enhancer), Mateo Sanchez, etc.

54:54 Mention of writer, philosopher, and teacher, Robert Majzels

TIA House recognizes the generous support of the Canada Research Chairs program and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. We also appreciate the support of the Faculty of Arts and the Department of English at the University of Calgary, where our offices are housed, as well as the guidance of Marc Stoeckle at the Taylor Family Digital Library.

TIA House is run by Larissa Lai, Shuyin Yu, Ryan Stearne, Shazia Ramji, Rebecca Geleyn, Mikka Jacobsen, Benjamin Ghan, Amy LeBlanc, Marc Lynch, and Mahmoud Ababneh.
Our Intro/Outro music is Monarch of the Streets by Loyalty Freak Music, accessed from the Free Music Archive.

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