Issue 3.50 Editors’ Note

Gathering approaches that waver between “invention” and “intervention,” this issue curates work that imagines the archive as a site of both creation and resistance. Archives have long served as a generative site for poetic and artistic inquiry, bound up with questions of history and memory, power and subversion, the personal and the collective. Contributors work through a variety of innovative forms and specific contexts to ask: What is our relationship to the archive as witnesses, researchers, creators? What is preserved in the archive and therefore commemorated? What is excluded? What can and can’t be held within an archive in its traditional definition, and how might we imagine an archive to also include immaterial and embodied forms of knowledge?

Many pieces in this issue operate through reflecting on and recirculating material from the past, not merely to reproduce history, but to present it through new lenses and contexts. Anna Navarro’s excerpt from her longer work Behind Us Was the Sea brings the poet’s ear—and voice—to bear on the practices of listening, transcribing, and arranging the compelling interviews with diasporic Filipinos held in the Peoples of Southern Alberta Oral History Project. Mathieu Aubin’s conversation with bill bissett illuminates one corner of the social milieu in 1970s Vancouver as he discusses the events of the 1979 Writing on Our Time conference, his relationship with friend and mentor Warren Tallman, and the backlash he faced for the expression of sexuality and queer love in his work. Liz Howard’s excerpt from Kwewag Dreaming: A Borderless Sonic Geography weaves voices from the 1986 “Native Women” issue of Fireweed to actualize her dream of a longtable of women speaking from nations across Turtle Island.

Other pieces investigate the gaps and silences within archival records, asking how arts practices can mitigate the archive’s historical exclusions. Julia Polyck-O’Neill’s ruminant mediation on the politics of the archive begins by presenting us with an absent archival object—the artwork—that leaves only a trail of descriptive language in its wake. In this vacuum, poetry acts as an unsteady conduit between object and memory, unsettling us with its ambiguity and split syntax, and frustrating our desire for certainty, containment, and value extraction. Carrie Hunter and Darby Minott Bradford’s poems likewise utilize strategies of quotation and citation to ask what other activities might constitute an archival practice: reading, cataloguing, researching, and finding poetry in an accretion of daily encounters with text, history, and imagination. Finally, concetta principe’s poem “Archive Fever,” nodding in its title to Jacques Derrida’s famous theoretical work of the same name, poses a riddle in its seaming of title and content: What does sewing (its practices, its argot, its little muscle memories) have to do with an archive (The Archive)?

Institutional and state archives are always in tension with the more intimate remembrances of subjects, families, and communities, and several works in this collection productively inhabit the friction between these records. The poems in Carlos A. Pittella’s excerpt from DANTE’S BUREAU present us with a series of suspended or failed bordercrossings alongside photographs of the author’s geographical movements in media res. Ashley-Elizabeth Best’s suite of poems “ODSP 1, 2, & 3” takes the structure of the government intake form and fills it with lyric poetry, suggesting all the ways in which bureaucratic archives fail to capture the emotional, embodied, and quotidian experiences of the subjects they assess. Jane Shi’s work meanwhile opens with a suite of visual poems, contouring the subjects of a family photograph while posing a series of self-defining affirmations and negations.

The issue also features two new artist projects specially commissioned for our pages that engage with the role of images, and their circulation, in conceiving of and representing the archive. Taking the form of an unfolding landscape painting (which readers are also invited to cut out and reassemble for themselves), Nour Bishouty’s “tall grasses, small bushes” invites questions about the distortion of place that occurs when an image of a contested landscape enters into the public record or imagination. Meanwhile, in “Destroy Good Bad Baby,” artist Marisa Kriangwiwat Holmes, who also produced the striking cover for this issue, presents us with a dishevelled family-photo-album-cum-player-piano-sales-catalogue, calling attention to the multitude of ways in which images—collectively and cumulatively—speak. Elucidated by Emile Rubino’s essay, one might also ask of this work: What do these images say about you, about us? And what might an archive have to tell us if we only listen?

Finally, we’re delighted to highlight in this issue two events recorded in The Capilano Review’s audio-visual fonds: a 1982 poetry seminar with bpNichol, George Bowering, and Daphne Marlatt at SFU’s Burnaby campus, and a 1992 lecture by Judy Radul at Capilano College. Considering the respective audio and video recordings of these events— excerpts of which are now also available for you to listen to and view on our website—we present some possibilities for thinking and writing alongside archival events that were, at one time, of course not archival at all. This issue is all about these kinds of imperfect movements: from the past into the present, from the present into the past. We hope that you enjoy what we’ve assembled.

—Deanna Fong and Jacquelyn Zong-Li Ross

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