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Fred Wah

Fred Wah was born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan but grew up in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia. His father was a Canadian-born Chinese-Scots-Irishman raised in China and his mother a Swedish-born Canadian from Swift Current. Wah received a B.A. from the University of British Columbia in English literature and music before pursuing graduate studies in literature and linguistics in the U.S. where he eventually earned an M.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. He taught at a number of post-secondary institutions in western Canada and recently retired from in the English Dept. at the University of Calgary. Wah is probably best known as a poet, but he has made significant contributions as an editor and teacher and in recent years has become active in collaborative performance art. Wah now lives in Vancouver.  In March 2012, Fred Wah was the first Writer-in-residence at the English Department of Toronto Metropolitan University.  He was the fifth Parliamentary Poet Laureate and served in this capacity from 2011-2013. Wah was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2012.


All Americans

Calgary: Housepress, 2002.


Alley Alley Home Free

Red Deer, Alta.: Red Deer College Press, 1992.
PS8545 .A35 A8 1992

Publisher’s Synopsis

Alley Alley Home Free is the second segment of Music at the Heart of Thinking …, Fred Wah’s continuing response to contemporary texts. With the inclusion of “Artknots,” phrasings of elusive silences caught in the galleries of visual art, these poems continue to expand into an improvisational jazzlike discourse of unpredictable syntaxes and grammars of surprise. The intention is to outmanoeuvre the text, get home without being tagged, disrupt the ambitions of meaning as they fall blurred into a blind alley. Running alongside the simple sentence, the music at the heart of thinking reaches out to touch estranged word-worlds, language that can’t stop making sense – more sense, sometimes than we can hide.



Toronto: Coach House Press, 1972.


Beholden: A Poem as Long as the River

Co-author: Rita Wong
Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2018.
PS8569 .O5975 B44 2018

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

Comprised of two lines of poetic text flowing along a 114-foot-long map of the Columbia River, this powerful image-poem by acclaimed poets Fred Wah and Rita Wong presents language yearning to understand the consequences of our hydroelectric manipulation of one of North America’s largest river systems.

beholden: a poem as long as the river stems from the interdisciplinary artistic research project “River Relations: A Beholder’s Share of the Columbia River,” undertaken as a response to the damming and development of the Columbia River in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon, as well as to the upcoming renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty. Authors Fred Wah and Rita Wong spent time exploring various stretches of the river, all the way to its mouth near Astoria, Oregon. They then spent several months creating long poems along the Columbia, each searching for a language that evoked the complexities of our colonial appropriation of it. beholden was then assembled as a page-turning book that reproduces the two long poems as they respond to the meanderings of the river flowing two thousand kilometres through Canada, the United States, and the territories and reserves of Indigenous Peoples. Visual artist Nick Conbere then transferred this winding footprint into a monumental, 114-foot horizontal banner.

Awards and Honours

2019 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize–BC Book Prizes (finalist)


Breathin’ My Name With a Sigh

Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1981.
PS8545 .A35 B7 1981



Canton, N.Y.: Institute of Further Studies, 1974.


The False Laws of Narrative: The Poetry of Fred Wah

Selected with an introduction by Louis Cabri and an afterword by Fred Wah.
Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2009.
PS8545 .A35 A6 2009


Is a Door

Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2009.
PS8545 .A35 I82 2009

Publisher’s Synopsis

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.

Awards and Honours

2010 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize (BC Book Prizes)(Winner)


Lardeau: Selected First Poems

Toronto: Island Press, [1965].

Limited ed. of 350 copies.

 Medallions of Belief book cover

Poetry (Chapbook)

Medallions of Belief

Toronto: BookThug, 2012.
PS8545 .A35 M43 2012



Buffalo, N.Y.: Audit, 1967.


Music at the Heart of Thinking

Red Deer, Alta.: Red Deer College Press, 1987.


Pictograms From the Interior of B.C.

Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1975.
Special Collections PS8595 .A35 P5 1975



Red Deer, Alta.: Red Deer College Press, 1988.

Limited ed. of 300 copies.

 Scree The Collected Earlier Poems 1962-1990 book cover


Scree: The Collected Earlier Poems, 1962-1990

Edited by Jeff Derksen.
Toronto: Talonbooks, 2015.
PS8545 .A35 A6 2015


Selected Poems: Loki is Buried at Smoky Creek

Edited and with an introduction by George Bowering.
Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1980.
PS8545 .A35 A6 1980

Publisher’s Synopsis

This volume includes work selected from each of Fred Wah’s earlier books of poetry: Lardeau, Mountain, Among, Tree and Pictograms from the Interior of B.C.; in addition to unpublished work and work from the manuscript edition of Breathin’ My Name With a Sigh.

Book Cover of Sentenced to Light


Sentenced to Light

Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2008.

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

An astonishing series of unique collaborative image-text projects, Sentenced to Light privileges its poetic and formal textual space outside most of the images that are its original twins and offers the reader a glimpse of the dialectic of larger conversations, the unpredictable, improvisatory bavardage that whispers between these words and pictures in a space we call culture.


So Far

Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1991.

Awards and Honours

1992 Stephan G. Stephanson Award for Poetry-Alberta Literary Awards (Writers’ Guild of Alberta)(Winner)



Vancouver: Vancouver Community Press, 1972.

Limited ed. of 400 copies.

Poetry (Prose Poetry)

Waiting for Saskatchewan

Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1985.
PS8545 .A35 W3 1985

Publisher’s Synopsis (from the 5th printing 2004)

Waiting for Saskatchewan blends poetry and prose in four-part harmony. Wah interprets memory–a journey to China and Japan, his father’s experience as a Chinese immigrant in small Canadian towns, images from childhood–to locate the influence of genealogy. The procession of narrative reveals Wah’s own attempts to find “the relief of exotic identity.”

Awards and Honours

1985 Governor-General’s Literary Award–English Poetry (Winner)

Anthology (Poetry)

New Wave Canada: The New Explosion in Canadian Poetry

Souster, Raymond, ed.
Toronto: Contact Press, 1966.
PS8292 .S68 1966


Diamond Grill

Edmonton: NeWest, 1996.
PS8545 .A35 D53 1996

Publisher’s Synopsis

Diamond Grill is a rich banquet where Salisbury Steak shares a menu with chicken fried rice, bird’s nest soup sets the stage for Christmas plum pudding; where racism from whites for being Chinese and from Chinese for being white simmers behing the shiny clean surface of the action in the cafe.

Awards and Honours

1996 Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Fiction-Alberta Literary Awards (Writers’ Guild of Alberta)(Winner)

First Chapter book cover


First Chapter: The Canadian Writers Photography Project

TR681 .A85 D46 2001

Denton, Don, and Fred Wah. “Fred Wah.” In Denton, Don. First Chapter: The Canadian Writers Photography Project. Banff, AB: Banff Centre Press, 2001, 106-107.

Reading Writers Reading book cover


Reading Writers Reading: Canadian Authors’ Reflections

Z1039 .A87 R43 2006

Wah, Fred. “One Makes (the) Difference.” In Reading Writers Reading: Canadian Authors’ Reflections. Danielle Schaub, photographer and ed. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2006, 30-31.

Anthology (Poetry)

Wah, Fred. “Three Poems.” In Open Text: Canadian Poetry and Poetics in the 21st Century. Volume 2, edited by Roger Farr. (North Vancouver, BC: CUE Books, 2009), 76-80.
PS8293.1 .O64 2008 v.2

Anthology (Interview)

Wah, Fred, with Roger Farr. “From “‘Surprise, Unpredictability, and Improvisation’: An Interview with Fred Wah.” In Open Text: Canadian Poetry and Poetics in the 21st Century. Volume 3, edited by Roger Farr. (North Vancouver, BC: CUE Books, 2013), 79-87.
PS8293.1 .O64 2008 v.3


Faking It: Poetics and Hybridity, Critical Writing 1984-1999

PN1042 .W287 2000

Awards and Honors

2000 Gabrielle Roy Prize for writing on Canadian literature (Winner)

Permissions TISH Poetics 1963 book cover


Permissions: TISH Poetics 1963 Thereafter

PS8141 .W33 2014

Selected Criticism and Interpretation

Banting, Pamela. Body Inc.: A Theory of Translation Poetics. Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1995.
PS8155 .B25 1995

Beauregard, Guy Pierre. “Asian Canadian Literature: Diasporic Interventions in the Work of SKY Lee, Joy Kogawa, Hiromi Goto, and Fred Wah.” Ph.D. diss., University of Alberta, 2000.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses
Available as an open access dissertation.

Chao, Lien. “Dialogue: A Discursive Strategy in Chinese Canadian Poetry.” Chap. in her Beyond Silence: Chinese Canadian Literature in English. Toronto: TSAR, 1997, 122-155.
PS8089.5 .C47 C52 1997

Cho, Lily.  Eating Chinese: Culture on the Menu in Small Town Canada.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010.  See especially ch. 5, “‘How Taste Remembers Life’: Diaspora and the Memories That Bind,” p. 131-156.
FC106 .C5 C58 2010

Cho, Lily. “”How Taste Remembers Life”:  Diasporic Memory and Community in Fred Wah’s Poetry.”  In Culture, Identity, Commodity: Diasporic Chinese Literatures in English, ed. by Tseen Khoo and Kam Louie. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005, [81]-106.
PS153 .C45 C85 2005

Diehl-Jones, Charlene. “Fred Wah and His Works.” In Canadian Writers and Their Works. Poetry Series. Vol. 12, ed. Robert Lecker, Jack David and Ellen Quigley, 343-434. Toronto: ECW Press, 1996.
PS8141 .C375 v.12

Koh, Karlyn Y-Mae. “Reflections on the Coming of History: Revisiting the Makings of a “Chinese Canadian” Identity and Community.” Ph.D. diss., Simon Fraser University, 1999.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Lim, Huai-Yang. “Representations of Class Identity in Chinese Canadian Literature.” Ph.D. diss., University of Alberta, 2005.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Mai, Xiwen. “Transcultural Intertextuality: Reading Asian North American Poetry.”  Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 2010.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses
Available as an open access dissertation.

Miki, Roy. “Can Asian Adian?: Reading Some Signs of Asian Canadians.” Chap. in his In Flux: Transnational Shifts in Asian Canadian Writing. Edmonton: NeWest Press, 2011, 91-115.
PS8089.5 .A8 M55 2011

Miki, Roy. “A Poetics of the Hyphen: Fred Wah, Asian Canadian, and Critical Methodology.” Chap. in his In Flux: Transnational Shifts in Asian Canadian Writing. Edmonton: NeWest Press, 2011, 145-175.
PS8089.5 .A8 M55 2011

Moyer, Alexia. “Literary Meals in Canada: The Food/books of Austin Clarke, Hiromi Goto, Tessa McWatt and Fred Wah.” Ph.D. diss., Université de Montréal, 2012.
Available as an open access dissertation from L’Université de Montréal.

Saul, Joanne. “Auto-hyphen-etno-hyphen-graphy”: Fred Wah’s Creative-Critical Writing.” Chap. in Asian Canadian Writing Beyond Autoethnography, eds. Eleanor Ty and Christl Verduyn. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008,  133-152.
PS8089.5 .A8 A84 2008

Saul, Joanne. “The Politics and Poetics of Identity: ‘Faking It’ in Diamond Grill.” Chap. in her Writing the Roaming Subject: The Biotext in Canadian Literature. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.
PS8119 .S28 2006

Shearer, Karis.  “Constructing Canons: Postmodern Cultural Workers and the Canadian Long Poem.”  Ph.D. diss., The University of Western Ontario, 2008.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Sloan, Kathryn.  “The Gorgon’s Chronicle: Ethical Writing Through Ethnicity.”  M.A. diss., University of Calgary, 2008.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Uppal, Priscila. “Fred Wah: “This Dendrite Map: Father/Mother Haibun”.” In We Are What We Mourn: The Contemporary English-Canadian Elegy. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009. p. 238-248.
PS8145 .E4 U66 2009

Wah, Fred, “Fred Wah on Hybridity and Asianicity in Canada.” Interview by Susan Rudy.” In Butling, Pauline, and Susan Reddy. Poets Talk: Conversations with Robert Kroetsch … [et al.] Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2005.
PS8155.1 .B88 2005

Weaver, Andrew Earle.  “The Indeterminancy of Poetics: Six Experimental Poets.”  Ph.D. diss., University of Alberta, 2005.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses


Fred Wah Digital Archive

Bibliography from the Parliamentary Poet Laureate website

Wah interview with Margery Fee and Sneja Gunew (Sept. 2000) from the Canadian Literature: A Quarterly of Criticism and Review website

Wah page at the BC Bookworld Author Bank

Wah’s Personal Home Page

Wah page at the University of Toronto Library’s Canadian Poetry Online website

Publisher BookThug

Publisher Red Deer College Press

Publisher Talonbooks 

Fred Wah Fonds at Simon Fraser University Library