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The False Laws of Narrative

The Poetry of Fred Wah

By Fred Wah
Edited by Louis Cabri
Subjects Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature, Poetry
Series Laurier Poetry Hide Details
Paperback : 9781554580460, 102 pages, October 2009
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554582365, 102 pages, April 2011


The Poem Called Syntax by Fred Wah

We live on the edge of a lake called Echo.

I love this notion that noise makes itself,

so the lake holds all noise in its depths

and when the dog barks it gets it from the lake.

About nine thousand feet above these lakes (all lakes)

there is a geometry of sound, something like Plato's cave of noise.

It is from that construct the dog's bark takes shape,

a resounding of an earlier bark conditioned by the alpine.

History and physics. Acoustic paradigms in a bog of algae.

When I tell all my cousins and friends about this

they'll come to live on the shores of this lake and clean it up.

From the balconies of their summer homes they'll ask a lot of questions.

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
The False Laws of Narrative: The Poetry of Fred Wah selected with an introduction by Louis Cabri


Neil Besner

Biographical Note


Louis Cabri

Mountain that has come over me

even the eyes

akokli (goat) creek

Gold Hill


Poem for Turning

For the Western Gate

Havoc Nation

Hamill’s Last Stand


severance spring water

September spawn

nv s ble

We are different

sounds of o and ree

Breathe dust like you breathe wind

Sigh. A tenuous slight stream

A hight

Aug 5

Music at the Heart of Thinking 1

Music at the Heart of Thinking 6

Music at the Heart of Thinking 28

Music at the Heart of Thinking 50

Music at the Heart of Thinking 55

Music at the Heart of Thinking 77

Music at the Heart of Thinking 78

Music at the Heart of Thinking 89

Music at the Heart of Thinking 93

Music at the Heart of Thinking 98

ArtKnot 1

ArtKnot 2

ArtKnot 4

Hermes Poems

The Poem Called Syntax

Dead in My Tracks: Wildcat Creek Utaniki



Ripraps (Louis Cabri) and Afterwords (Fred Wah)



The False Laws of Narrative is a selection of Fred Wah’s poems covering the poets entire poetic trajectory to date. A founding editor of Tish magazine, Wah was influenced by leading progressive and innovative poets of the 1960s and was at the forefront of the exploration of racial hybridity, multiculturalism, and transnational family roots in poetry. The selection emphasizes his innovative poetic range.

Wah is renowned as one of Canada’s finest and most complex lyric poets and has been lauded for the musicality of his verse. Louis Cabri’s introduction offers a paradigm for thinking about how sound is actually structured in Wah’s improvisatory poetry and offers fresh insights into Wah’s context and writing. In an afterword by the poet himself, Wah presents a dialogue between editor and poet on the key themes of the selected poems and reveals his abiding concerns as poet and thinker.


``Wah's attention to the local is meticulous. It is also very inventive. ... Cabri's. ..critical work in False Laws provides a sophisticated, wide-ranging analysis of Wah's generic/theoretical concerns (the collage epic, the sound of language, hybrid identity) and his main historical influences (William Carlos Williams, the Black Mountain poets). ... [A] well-edited collection and a solid step towards the wider circulation of Wah's poetry. ''

- David Barrick, matrix, #85

``It's about time. ..that someone came along to write a book such as this. And it's a pleasure to see it as part of the Laurier Poetry Series, which has achieved a standard of excellence that other institutions should be admiring and emulating. ... The False Laws of Nature is an excellent selection of Wah's poetry from his earliest to his most recent. Cabri demonstrates not just an understanding of but a profound respect for Wah both as an individual and as a poet. Cabri has created the standard by which all others should be judged. ''

- John Herbert Cunningham, Prairie Fire Review of Books, Volume 10, number 2, October 2010

``The quest for a wider audience for poetry may be quixotic, but this series makes a serious attempt to present attractive, affordable selections that speak to contemporary interests and topics that might engage a younger generation of readers. Yet it does not condescend, preferring to provide substantial and sophisticated poets to these new readers. At the very least, these slim volumes will make very useful introductory teaching texts in post-secondary classrooms because they whet the appetite without overwhelming. ''

- Paul Milton, Canadian Literature, 193, Summer 2007

``Louis Cabri offers a marvelous map of Wah's concerns. ... Fred Wah is a modernist with a difference; one hopes that they (and significant others) point us toward a future poetics of negotiated, rather than enforced, differences. ''

- Susan M. Schultz, Tinfish Editor's Blog