Rita Wong

Rita Wong was born in 1968 and grew up in Calgary. She has taught English in China, Japan and Canada, and currently lives in Vancouver where she remains active as a writer, activist, and archivist. In 1997 she received the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop emerging writer award. Wong has a Masters degree in English from the University of Alberta and a Master in Archival Studies from the University of British Columbia. Wong’s Ph.D. dissertation from Simon Fraser University (2002) is entitled: Provisional Mobilities: Rethinking Labour Through Asian Racialization in Literature. She is currently teaching at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

Poetry

Beholden: A Poem as Long as the River

Co-author: Fred Wah
Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2018.
PS8595 .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)

Poetry

Forage

Gibson’s Landing, B.C.: Nightwood Editions, 2007.

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

Self-described as “impassioned rants against the abuses of power,” Rita Wong’s newest collection of poems is a vividly described, fierce commentary on our international political landscape and the injustices it breeds. All of the poems in Forage hold sharply modern and timely opinions that are aching to tear off the page and race down the street in a whirl of fury and Third World pride: “the time for business as usual is over. It died with the first colonial casualty.”

Awards and Honours

2008 Dorothy Livesay BC Book Prize for Poetry (Winner)
2008 Asian American Literary Awards (Finalist)

Poetry

Monkeypuzzle: Poems

Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers, 1998.

Publisher’s Synopsis

Heady and sensual, lyrical and passionate, Rita Wong’s poetry excavates the minefields of childhood, family, history and desire– a moving chronicle that searches deeply to lay bare the boundaries of class, race, and home.

Perpetual book cover

Poetry

Perpetual

Illustrated by Cindy Mochizuki.
Gibsons, BC: Nightwood Editions, 2015.
PS8595 .O5975 P47 2015

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

The power of water is the power of blood, flood and drought. Water keeps it real, keeps us real. Forgetting this, we turn the earth into a toxic dump. Remembering this, we unfurl the future as perpetual possibility.

Water is also the strength of subtlety, quietly making its way through your body. perpetual is both a gift and a warning from water. Through drawings and graphic essays by artist Cindy Mochizuki and writer Rita Wong, the book visits some key sites where people have sabotaged themselves by desecrating water: the Pacific Ocean, the tar sands leaking into the Athabasca River, the historical salmon streams buried in sewers under Vancouver’s streets, pressing to be daylighted…

Poetry

Sybil Unrest

Co-author: Larissa Lai.
Burnaby, B.C.: LINEbooks, 2008.
PS8595 .O5975 S92 2008

Synopsis (from Acknowledgements)

This poem began in a renga spirit during the 2003 Hong Kong International Literary Festival. … The conversational format and the intensive questioning produce an unstable, flickering sort of subjectivity that throws an enlightenment individual “i” into question, and hopefully explores its ideological underpinnings. It is into this unstable subjectivity that we attempt to reinject questions of gender, race and class, as well as geography, movement, power and hope.

Undercurrent book cover

Poetry

Undercurrent

With drawings by Cindy Mochizuki
Gibsons, B.C.: Nightwood Editions, 2015.
PS8595 .O465 U54 2015

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

The water belongs to itself. undercurrent reflects on the power and sacredness of water—largely underappreciated by too many—whether it be in the form of ocean currents, the headwaters of the Fraser River or fluids in the womb. Exploring a variety of poetic forms, anecdote, allusion and visual elements, this collection reminds humanity that we are water bodies, and we need and deserve better ways of honouring this.

undercurrent emerges from the Downstream project, a multifaceted, creative collaboration that highlights the importance of art in understanding and addressing the cultural and political issues related to water. The project encourages public imagination to respect and value water, ecology and sustainability. Visit downstream.ecuad.ca.

Anthology (Poetry)

Wong, Rita. “Five Poems.” In Open Text: Canadian Poetry in the 21st Century. Volume 1, edited by Roger Farr. (North Vancouver, BC: CUE Books, 2008), 118-122.
PS8293.1 .O64 2008 v.1

Anthology (Prose)

Lai, Larissa, and Rita Wong. “Sybil Discontinuities, Earth Relations.” In Open Text: Canadian Poetry and Poetics in the 21st Century. Volume 3, edited by Roger Farr. (North Vancouver, BC: CUE Books, 2013), 30-38.
PS8293.1 .O64 2008 v.3

Selected Criticism and Interpretation

Chan, Sunny. “Consensual Hallucinations: Cyberspace, Narrative, and Poetics in Asian North American Literature.” Master’s thesis, University of British Columbia, 2012.
Available as an open access thesis from the University of British Columbia.


Khoo, Gaik Cheng. “Rita Wong.” In Asian American Poets: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, ed. Guiyou Huang, [319]-322. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.
PS153 .A84 A826 2002


Lai, Larissa.  “Ethnic Ethics, Translational Excess: The Poetics of jam ismail and Rita Wong.”  Chap. in her Slanting I, Imagining We: Asian Canadian Literary Production in the 1980s and 1990s.  Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2014, 161-185.
PS8573 .A373 L33 2014


Miki, Roy. “Are You Restless Too? Not to Worry, So is Rita Wong: Towards a Poetics of the Apprehensive.” Chap. in his In Flux: Transnational Shifts in Asian Canadian Writing. Edmonton: NeWest Press, 2011, 177-205.
PS8089.5 .A8 M55 2011

Links

Rita Wong’s blog

Rita Wong’s website at Emily Carr University of Art & Design.

Rita Wong page on the Writers’ Union of Canada website.

Rita Wong and Larissa Lai in conversation with by Fazeela Jiwa in LemonHound (June 9, 2014)

Publisher Nightwood Editions