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12 or 20 Questions for Rita Wong

From 12 or 20 Questions for Rita Wong:

3 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

A poem can begin with a feeling, a word, a sound, an experience, an intuition. I tend to write short bits that accumulate over time. There are recurring obsessions and themes, though they are not always conscious when I begin writing.

4 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process?

Public speaking did not come easily to me, but it is a way to contribute to a larger conversation, and when Iíve taken the risk to speak up, Iíve been happily surprised and grateful when people in the audience share their responses and knowledge.

5 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

I want to understand what it means to act ethically in a globalized world. For instance, as someone who relies heavily on computers, I am implicated in the degradation and eventual destruction of ecosystems (mining for coltan, for instance), and I am also related to the labour of people whom I may never meet, but who nonetheless help make my work and my life possible. How do I reconcile my intent (to work toward peace and social justice) with my consumption patterns as a citizen in North America? Writing offers a space to explore these difficult, uncomfortable questions, and the form that such writing takes may also be uncomfortable, but I hope that the reading, research, thinking and feeling that I do will be useful to readers who struggle with these questions. This struggle is hard, but it is also hopeful. Delving into our contradictions involves both terror and courage, and a constant querying of the relations between writing and other forms of action. What shifts in consciousness and behaviour are needed for us to co-exist peacefully with each other and other life forms? We are living in the midst of a mass extinction, a rapidly degrading ecosystem and a warming planet; how we respond to this crisis is a question that pushes me to keep reading, writing and talking. While the problems are serious and daunting, the knowledge and wisdom of many thinkers, writers, and activists is also inspiring (Winona Laduke, Linda Hogan, Joy Harjo, Jeannette Armstrong, Lee Maracle, Vandana Shiva, Dionne Brand, Maude Barlow, and many more, come to mindóI canít give up when there are so many people doing amazing, compelling work).

Read the other 9 or 17 questions at 12 or 20 Questions