Archive for ‘Poetry’

April 7, 2011

The Earth is Calling Out

by kristiemendoza

A pleasant read that unites language play with lyrical reflection on the late consumerist background is found in Rita Wong’s Forage. It is clear that Wong has observed everything to seem materialistic in this moment of time, so in her collection of poems, we instantaneously wonder about questions of labour exploitation, provision in this age of globalization, and the stress that has cumulated on profit limitations.

Given the catastrophes of the international economics, the current discussions regarding global warming, and the broadening difference between the rich and poor of society, Wong’s work uncannily seems almost psychic. While being part of a growing Asian-Canadian poetry community, her collection powerfully speaks to them. Korean and Chinese characters come up on the page to interrupt a single semantic reading that was being experienced. The lyrics break up into different parts all throughout the text which holds a more dynamic prose in poetry.

Wong writes about the elegy for a Korean activist who killed himself while protesting the World Trade Organizations polices in “for Lee Kyung Hae Korean farmer martyred in Cancun.” The characters for Lee’s name has been widely apprehended as a racial politic instead of an ethnic politic. Wong poses with an interethnic thought through “WTO/smashes rice farmers/into the enduring/earth” (62). She brings us back to Canada by “biking down the august streets of vancouver I find my pride at powell street” (72). The shift between Asian culture and Canadian culture is outstanding.

Her attention towards other cultures is a way of thinking about diversity and the encouragement of change is greatly invigorating. Rita Wong is an exceedingly brilliant writer who is able to create meaning against each other in juxtaposition. This collection would be appropriate for any course on contemporary poetics in literature.

Word Count: 292

April 7, 2011

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

by spencersmyl

Rita Wong promulgates through her most recent collection of poems called Forage, a rather fierce and informative rebuke towards modern political and cooperate discourse and their unfavourable implications on the environment. Targeting these developments, Wong allows her relationship with the environment to flow out to the reader though her poems in a hope to re-bond and re-connect them to the earth and its environment. In such an informative and sometimes blunt manner, many of these some short and some long poems, focus on the unfair developments which occur in rebound to the crusades of global economic capitalism. Illustrating this begins right from the cover, hills of outdated computer technology proportionally fill up most of the cover; it’s contrasted with the smaller upper portion of the cover with that of real hills. Symbolizing precisely what is to come in Wong’s Forage; a sadly miscued and forgotten reality of what really matters.

One thing that Wong does throughout Forage is that she is able to always write in such an informative manner, without loosing her creativity and abstractness in her poems. The reader can sometime feel that life is a rather redundant thing, where we the average person are lost in a myopic trance, sleepwalking through our daily tasks. Through these developments Wong can begin to elaborate and point out the irrationalities of society and the capitalist system, telling the reader wake up to reality. In the poem ‘perverse subsidies’ Wong states “will pay for you to take my garbage away so I never have to look at it, never have to imagine the roaches & rats…ragged underwear…[and] seagulls & crows feeding on rotting leftovers…”, from this Wong goes even further to talk about the economic implications of war and cooperate development, and that it is something of the same thing we do when we leave our garbage out at the end of our drive way; we turn a cold shoulder, as once it is out of sight it is no longer our problem, it’s someone else’s. This is exactly how Wong bases her work – she builds her poems small and then ends them in a larger perspective. This is why and how Wong makes her pieces so informative and powerful to the reader.

The beautiful thing about Rita Wong’s informative poetry is that it offers people a different medium in which they can come to terms with understanding modern day implications and developments. In this case she poises to the reader the political and corporate injustice towards the environment in the form of poetry. No news article, no scholarly journal, no political and cooperate rhetoric, and no ideological spectrum can offer such a perspective and personal understanding that can find refuge within almost any reader. That is why if you are tired of reading the same old information coming down the same old grapevine, then you should most certainly get your hands on Wong’s Forage.


April 7, 2011


by sadafsalehi

Rita Wong is the author of Forage; she is a local professor and a former archivist. Her main ideal of writing the poetic novel Forage is to allow her readers to explore the components of culture and identity through more than just complex paragraphs.

 Food is a consistent argument in Forage; in which represents the scheme of malnourishment, the themes of nutrition and instinctual survival. Rita Wong’s unique approach of demonstrating the ecological crisis relate to the injustices of our international political landscape. She uses more than just poems to get her readers fascinated with her work, the use of the of marginal notes and asking her readers to connect English words to Chinese symbols allows her readers to carry out their interest through her book. She constantly informs the readers with syntactical information rather than poetic concern. Her poems attack modern power politics and attempts to modernize traditional poetry, without losing the concept of its meaning.

I established that her writing is very distinctive, she writes of things that trouble her and mean a lot to her. She tends to focus on the horrendous scenes that take place every day in both the Chinese and Native Cultures. It was very interesting to me how she uses more than just one style of poetry throughout the book; although the free-verse poems where hard to follow they still fascinated me. She made a good decision of adding little glimpses of humor to keep her readers satisfied. I enjoyed reading Forage and I expect other people would too, Rita Wong is an amazing writer and I would definitely consider reading more of her work in the future.

Word Count:276

April 6, 2011

Big vs. Little

by stefmiele

Rita Wong’s book Forage, published in 2007, is a collection of environmental friendly poems that primarily focuses on the modern day capitalist political ambiance. The instructional nature of Wong’s poems frequently feels like an effort to bombard the reader with syntactical information rather than it’s poetic concern, as well as reflecting the explicit volume of information that Northern Americans ingest daily. This makes the book interesting, as taking notice at the motives, which would make someone like Rita Wong, to choose a collection of poems instead of an informational essay, which sometimes while reading, feels like one. Wong also puts forth her opinion on large corporations such as Disney, McDonalds, Walmart and so on, across the world, particularly in North America. Parts throughout the collection of poems make me feel like she wants us to start a revolution against big corporations, support the little business owners and disregard larger businesses entirely, much like a small independently owned and run coffee shop vs. a major corporation like Starbucks.

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April 5, 2011

Relevance In Art Form

by kendralgraham

Stereotypically poetry is either romance and rhymes or boring dribble and nonsense. Poetry is synonymous with many things it just depends on who you talk to. If you had asked me not to long ago I would have told you poetry was something I got nothing out of, until that is I came across Rita Wong’s collection of poems, forage. By touching on current events society often turns a blind eye to, forage gives commentary and opinions on environmental atrocities and political controversies. Using forage Wong creates relevance in art form and is able to sway even me into embracing the facts she presents us with.

Presented in two parts “rise/riven/rice” and “lore/loose/lode,” Wong’s individual poems touch on everything from human over-consumption and waste to genetically modified foods and capitalism. Wong’s poems are refreshing because they refuse to shy away from the harsh realities people don’t want to face. For example, in “perverse subsidies” Wong doesn’t sugar coat that humans are one of the main contributors to global climate change because of the selfish and wasteful choices they make. The poems themselves are easy to read and feel good and lyrical in your mouth when read aloud. Wong’s writing style conveys the environmental issues she wants to get across clearly and effectively.

Bringing an additional layer of context to her work, numerous poems in forage have ‘handwritten’ annotations accompanying them. These annotations often provide insight into Wong’s inspiration behind the piece or encourage readers to continue to educate themselves about the issues being discussed. For example, in “nervous organism” the accompanying quote expresses discontent at the idea that people do not react with more anger towards the idea of our food being genetically modified. Environmental issues are often given to us in news stories or fact based articles that fail to capture our attention. forage is able to not only capture our attention because of the rare way it presents readers with information but because of the way it leaves readers desiring more.

forage stands out in the mind of readers not only because of the unfamiliar way it is presented but also because of the topics it touches on. While many of the pieces are strangely beautiful (even if they are talking about garbage), none of the pieces are nonsense. Diving into issues that demand your attention, forage is a book that should be read today so you can educate yourself on how to help the world tomorrow.


April 5, 2011

ecopoetry – a ‘scrap’book for sustainable solutions

by Rikki Seddon

It can no longer be denied by anyone that our planet is in dire straits because of humans’ selfish endeavours. We are pumping carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere which is warming our planet, messing with the natural cycles of animals and plants to feed our growing population and filling the seas with plastic remnants from our throw-away society.

Rita Wong’s ‘forage’ is a provocative collective work of poetry that attempts to make us aware that these actions are dangerous and we are poisoning each other and our home. We are asked to consider our roles in others’ lives and question what we buy and do; to re-evaluate the choices that we make on a daily basis.

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April 2, 2011

Rita Wong | In Dialogue

by Aurelea

Here at Capilano, Rita Wong’s 2007 collection forage is our final book in English 103-05 and 06 | Introduction to Contemporary Literature for the Spring term.  Rita has generously participated in an at-a-distance Q/A session with the English 103 students.

The students’ questions were collected on Wednesday, March 30th.  In the process of answering the questions, Rita grouped them questions thematically.  Here are Rita’s responses.

Grouping 1

For responses to the following questions, please see the comments at Litter-a-terre:

  • Why include Chinese characters in a book of English language poetry?
  • How did you come to explore these topics? Language? Capitalism? Environment? Crises?
  • What do you hope to achieve by bringing up questionable environmental and bio-tech practices?
  • Your pieces often read like essays in the form of poetry. Why poetry?  Note: Scroll down to the very bottom of the litter-a-terre site for this response.
  • What is the logic behind the slashes and jumbled words in “nervous organism”?
  • Are “fluorine” and the “the girl who ate rice almost every day” based on personal experience? Answer: Yes—both personal experience and imagination—I’ve never managed to go underground to explore sewers, but maybe someday.

Addendum: For me, poetry creatively engages with our daily lives, with the moments that might otherwise be overlooked, what is both hidden yet within plain view, if we take the time to dwell with the quiet, the embedded, the already present (which could include our cultural inheritances, our socio-economic structures, environmental factors like pollution and resilience, and much more).

Grouping 2 | Writing, Research, Influence

  • What was the inspiration or idea behind the “annotations” that accompany many of the poems?
  • To what extent have your past experiences influenced your poetry?  Who has influenced your development as a poet?  Were there any artists/poets/writers, in particular, influencing you while working on forage?
  • Do you engage in research before writing your poems?  Or do the poems themselves suggest the need for further research on specific topics?
  • What kind of personal and/or educational experience do you have with the topics and materials about which you are writing?  Or do you primarily rely on research?
  • Did you set out specifically to write a book with an explicit political/environmental agenda or did the focus of the book evolve more organically than that?

I’m interested in looking at my everyday life and unpacking some of the things that get overlooked or taken for granted, such as the pollution that is increasingly common in our lives. Today, the experience and concept of pollution is shifting so that it is not merely something out there (smog, huge amounts of plastic trash floating in the ocean) but also something that is inside each and every one of us, human and nonhuman, spread by our shared experience of air, water and food. This is humorously but also effectively shown in books like Slow Death by Rubber Duck, which show how common objects like rubber ducks, sofas, canned food and more, carry with them unintended, cumulative side-effects because of the chemicals they introduce into our daily lives. The term “body burden” refers to the hundreds of chemicals that are now found in the average citizen, chemicals that did not exist in our bodies before World War II. These chemicals have also been found everywhere from Inuit children to polar bears, salmon, and sperm whales. This brings home the point that there is no escape from pollution—that we share a responsibility to keep the planet clean for ourselves and all other living creatures. The pollution manifests itself in everything from allergies to cancers, and various illnesses which have affected my family and friends. [I would also add that we are made of the water, air, and earth in and around us; when they are polluted, so are we. The water, air, and earth continue to sustain our lives, and there is more we can do to help them help us by reducing or eliminating pollution.] While there are many factors to consider, the environmental one needs much more serious attention. The book arose organically from my examination of daily life.

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February 2, 2011

In the Skin of a Lion

by giannabasso

Michael Ondaatje’s, In the Skin of a Lion, is nothing short of brilliant. An expose of the migrant condition, a novel caressed by imagery and poetry, the perfect blend that keeps one longing for more. It is one of the few novels that I was actually eager to finish. Not because I was forced to but because I couldn’t get enough of Ondaatje’s euphemistic poetry and striking details. Like a lucid dream, you’re brought into this unfamiliar world where there is a defined lined between rich and poor. Where blood, sweat and tears are poured into not only the physical labour, the Viaduct but into the labor of love, Clara. “Here they had pushed in frenzy, sexual madness. He finds the faint impression of her backbone on the white paint.” One of my favourite quotes, wrapped with the sensuality in both Ondaatje’s language and details you can’t help but close your eyes and picture yourself there, right in that moment.
The Characters that Ondaatje draws upon are so passionately and intimately made. Their pain, desires and actions are laid out so delicately. Reading the novel feels like one is watching a silent film. His vignette like scenes unravels in my mind as I anticipate the next scene, the next breath, and the next touch. The setting of Ondaatje’s, In the Skin of a Lion, takes place in Toronto in the 1920s. His description of the Bloor Street Viaduct and the R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant focuses heavily on the lives of the immigrant workers that toiled day and night for years. He describes these structures so vividly, drawing upon his research and time spent in the archives of the City of Toronto.
The book is broken down into sections. Book one with, Little Seeds, The Bridge and The searcher. Book two with, Palace of Purification and Remorse and book three with Caravaggio and the Maritime Theatre. Ondaatje allows Patrick Lewis, one of the main characters, to develop from a boy into a man throughout the sections. The tittles are little insights into the future of the characters and plot. “Perhaps it was an exceptional puppet of cloth as opposed to an exceptional human being.” Ondaatje has this way of challenging the boundaries between genres and states of being, giving animation to a variety of inanimate objects throughout the novel.
The one thing I was dissatisfied with was the ending. I felt like there should have been something else. It ends with, “lights, he said”. It felt like the book just went right back to the start. I was left longing for more, but an exceptional read to say the least. This is a book for those who enjoy reading for reading’s sake.

February 2, 2011

A Sense of Realism

by willspeterson

Michael Ondaatje’s novel In the Skin of a Lion is a fictional account of the working class on the building of the Bloor Street Viaduct and the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant. This story uses historical accounts to outline the struggle that the immigrants faced while creating these landmarks for the city of Toronto. This story is not told in a conventional linear fashion, with Ondaatje using poetry (of which he himself has an extensive collection), throughout the whole story.  He also mixes historical events and persons (the disappearance of Ambrose Small, and the deaths of the Finnish labour union persons ((even if he has to then fictionalize events because of the unknown nature of these stories.)) The story itself revolves around Patrick Lewis, his life, how his experiences in work and romance, help Ondaatje to grow Patrick into a young adult.

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February 2, 2011

The Not of What She Didn’t Know: I Don’t Know

by alessandranakhleh

Meredith Quartermain is a Vancouver-based poet who focuses on our planet, urban life, and it’s relationship to history.  Having taught contemporary literature and writing at the University of British Columbia and Capilano University, Quartermain has still found the time to create and be an editor of “The News”, a west coast literary website. Quartermain and her husband run Nomandos Literary Publishers, centered in Vancouver.  The group of micro fictions and prose poems written by Quartermain published in The Capilano Review 3.12 embodies all characteristics of well written flash fiction.  The short stories, collectively titled “The Not of What She Didn’t Know” come from Quartermain’s “Recipes From The Red Planet”, a book of mind jolting short stories.  Since her writings are completed roughly around 100 words, readers are immediately intrigued to dive in and provide their full attention.  All exerts from “Recipes From The Red Planet” are written by Quartermain to have comparable themes, and be able to flow together by sharing many similar traits.  Although every micro fiction is short, each piece is still able to represent a full story from beginning to end, allowing readers to bond with the characters.  Quartermain puts her readers in a position from the outside, as if they are listening in on a nearby conversation or watching a television show.  In micro fictions titled “L’amante l’anglaise” and “A Disagreement Over Lunch”, Quartermain allows her readers to feel as if they are eavesdropping on conversations between characters.  While in “My Agency” it is as though the reader is given a continuous stream of the thoughts taking place in the main character’s mind.  The simplicity of Quartermain’s writing in some cases may have a confusing effect on her audience, by then forcing the reader to further contemplate and digest the ideas initially intended to be portrayed by the author.  If Quartermain’s purpose of these short stories is to entice readers with an interesting open subject, then to leave them thinking – she has done a marvelous job.  The font and spacing in which Quartermain’s flash fiction is printed is easy on the eyes for readers and will attract all audiences.