Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Words building the writing world

Halfway through Stephen Henighan's collection of essays on Canadian Literature, When Words Deny the World, i am struck by his idea that an increasingly globalized/americanized world has led to the end of a national Canadian literary community. Maybe i've been particularly blessed, or maybe poetry is working differently than other types of literature, but i've found that there are vibrant regional communities that often reach out to one another. Generally, each one of these communities has a few organizers at the center, who foster dialogue both internally and externally. The Toronto Influency salon is one of those centers; people from all over the country pass in and out of its sphere. Influency West is starting up in Vancouver, and i would love to see similar classes establish themselves in other major cities. It's an ideal of community that i hold very dear, and i've been lucky to meet other writers who feel the same way. Inclusive, rather than exclusive. Grassroots, rather than industrialized. Poets on the ground interacting with one another, and with texts. It's dynamic. It's productive. It's sometimes tenuous, and not at all perfect. But it's not as bleak as Henighan makes out. But his book makes some very salient points about the way non-writers perceive Canadian writers: government sponsored elitists, backwards, boring. Many people (at one point in my life, this included me) buy into the idea that Canada has no culture of its own, and doesn't really need one. The Americans do it better, they say. Its been said so many times, I'm sure lots of people believe it. But it's just not true.

So how do we translate writing communities into broader audiences? There must be a way.

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