Usually a writer learns more from failure and rejection than from anything else, I suppose, given the tremendous amount of both the writers I know seem to have accumulated throughout the years. That is, except for one particular and peculiar occasion in which I learned more from what at first appeared a writing success.
It was May or June of 1986, the CBC radio program Alberta Anthology had accepted a suite of my poems for broadcast. Along with the letter of acceptance was a standard ACTRA contract which I was required to sign if I wanted to be paid the $140.00 the program was offering for the broadcast of my poems. Being a young and hungry writer, I signed the contract and mailed it back to the CBC.
To say I was dissatisfied with the broadcast of my suite of poems would have been an understatement. The actor the program had hired to recite my poems had no concept of each poem’s unique nuances, inflections, vernacular, tropes and idioms. Even worse was the hokey, mawkish background music which further altered the original meaning of my works.
As final insult, though, the same contract I had signed to get paid had also given them the right to censor language they deemed offensive. Fuck became Frick. Shit, crap. Hell, heck. And so on. To me, it was an early and important lesson I learned in the commodification of Canlit, and how it determines content in Canada’s conformist publishing culture.
That single experience has motivated me through the years as a writer, editor, and publisher to never take for granted what it is the writer says, and how it is they say it, never altering one word without their prior knowledge or approval. As you listen to this and other Urban Graffiti Mixes, imagine just how much their meanings would be altered by the arbitrary changing of a word here, or a phrase there.
Special thanks goes to CO-OP Radio 102.7 FM and the hosts of the program Wax Poetic from which the works of both Catherine Owen and Evelyn Lau have been excerpted. Click on each writer’s name, respectively, to listen to their entire interviews at length.