I gather alphabetized concepts of
Xa’al
Slice into its heart and
open my veins
I carve Xa’al’s paragraphs onto
trees, pulverized and flattened
Under the flat-white surfaces,
ancestral bones rattle
Play an old game of Lahal
My sticks know these songs

Lee Maracle, from “Talking to the
Diaspora”


As a guest co-editor for this special issue of Ricepaper magazine, I am an invited guest in this space, as well as a person with some executive power and authority, a voice in the contents, a hand in the process, a shaper. As we work through the joy of receiving stories, the private processes of absorbing and responding, assessing and choosing, and the collective mechanics of reconciling three lists into one, the world around us goes on, and affects us all. Proving time and again, we are all related, that the world is more oceanic than mechanical.

I am also a guest here in Salish territories. The kind that washes up onshore, and stays forever.

Over the past year, two Vancouver based groups with similar acronyms (Asian Canadian Writers Workshop, Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast) have taken on collaborating, with the twin goals of sharing skill (professional development) and sharing showcase (cross-fertilization). The project was initiated by AWCWC founding member Russell Wallace, developed and carried forward in a spirit of cheerful diplomacy by a variety of cool-laborators (mainly from ACWW).

A series of workshops and performance nights was the first harvest of what is proving to be a rather fruitful correspondence. Create: Collaborate: Celebrate: Aboriginal & Asian Canadians Writing Together brought together four teams of facilitating authors, tasked with the job of presenting workshops on a selection of themes: I co-presented with Fiona Lam on the theme, Gifts of the Ancestors; Janet Rogers was paired with Mercedes Eng, presenting a workshop specific for Youth. On day two, Rita Wong joined Jordan Abel for Land/scapes, and Hiromi Goto and Daniel Heath Justice co-presented Speculative Fiction.

Russell Wallace and his sister Freda Wallace opened the first day of events with welcome songs, setting a beautiful tone for the whole gathering. Performance nights showcased the presenting writers alongside workshop participants and other writers from the two literary communities. Those who did not attend the workshops were nevertheless touched and inspired by the great vitality unleashed through the collaborating processes, both performance nights featuring a strong sense of intimacy afire.

A follow-up roundtable took place at SFU downtown, and plans were laid for a performance night fundraiser, Five Elements. (In our first year the Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast hosted a multicultural showcase of performance, a fundraiser for L.O.V.E., called Four Elements.) In a separate but welcome development, Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate Fred Wah approached AWCWC with an offer to support an indigenous poetry event: thanks, Fred!

This special issue of Ricepaper is an integral part of the initial vision of the CCC organizers: bringing together indigenous and Asian Canadian writers in a textual showcase. Co-edited by Lee Maracle, Jim Wong-Chu and yours truly, the following pages include some of the many fine works that were submitted in many genres, in response to our call. Here is the poem created in Saturday’s writing workshop, by 4 youth participants and 3 adult participants, sent along by Victoria’s Poet Laureate, Janet Marie Rogers:

beavers, bannock and bok choy

He defines himself
within the city, within history
but we’ve got barriers that separate us
keeping us in expectation of each other
They eat what they hunt
You know what feed you are
proud to be Canadian

As deadlines impend, as Forsaken, Idle No More, and the work on this issue combine in the worlds both around me and within me, sometimes joyfully, sometimes—like this past weekend—making my right eyelid flutter, with all that embodied tension, it’s good to sit back and give thanks. As my teachers tell me, Think good thoughts while you make things. Both are needed. With thanks to those whose ancestral lands we inhabit, and to all the helpers and contributors, we offer up to you this delectable feast, celebrating our connections and listening to one another, sharing the space.

All My Relations,
Joanne Arnott
on behalf of Lee Maracle & Jim Wong-Chu