What Has Our World Come to?

by carleerocha

Rita Wong’s Forage is an intellectual little book of poetry that talks about how our world today is corrupted and pretty much a heap of trash. The poem “perverse subsidies” is an excellent example of how Wong uses images of garbage to make the reader realize how poorly we treat our land and the people that reside here:
fill my car, our streets, with the corpses of Iraqi civilians, the ghost of ken saro-wiwa, the bones of displaced caribou. It will clatter down the graveyard that masquerades as a highway…etc. (21)
Her work also includes poems that touch upon consumption, wastefulness, capitalism, environmental issues and issues in culture.

Several of Wong’s poems address some very serious issues (such as how poorly we treat the First Nations people in Canada). Yet, she does not shy away at all from letting us know how our world and the way we do things are flawed in many ways. Other authors may choose to simply dance around such serious matters as she addresses, where Wong gets straight to the point. For example, the very first poem in her novel; “value chain”. The poem addresses enculturation and the loss of one’s “roots” as well as over-consumption by using images of excess product going to waste:
cartons of cigarettes wait for lungs to reside in, heaps of dolls burn for the sins of their owners…etc. (11)
She knows how to get her ideas and points to her readers in a clear manner without a sense of feeling attacked or accused for all these current issues and problems.

Another great thing about Wong’s novel is that she doesn’t only expect her readers to “lay back and enjoy the show”. She puts annotations on several pages of her poems to get her readers engaged in the issue that she has presented. Many of the annotations have a sort of mystery to them, making you want to research them and find out more. Several of them also involve interesting facts and important pieces of history:
Queen Victoria waged war twice… in order to ensure the free commerce of opium. – Avital Ronell. (13)
As we all know, acquiring more knowledge is always a good thing and Wong gives her readers the chance to do this repeatedly.

Although Wong does have many assets in her writing, there is one thing that is quite restricting; the Chinese characters. It is very difficult to translate these words unless you have a Chinese dictionary on hand, which I believe I can fairly assume that the majority of people do not. It is known that Wong believes that it is important to know your own culture (an example is “value chain”):
they take your culture away from you: you cannot sing your own songs anymore. (11)
But, this really denies information from a large portion of her audience.

In conclusion, Forage is written very well since it provides the readers with knowledge of current, important problems and issues as well as engages the audience. But, many of her poems have side notes involving Chinese characters which alienate a large portion of her readers. This is not a good thing since it may irritate some readers and cause them to have no interest in finishing the book because they may be missing important components that contribute to the poetry.

Work Cited: Wong, Rita. Forage. British Columbia: Nightwood Editions, 2007. Print.

(625 words)

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