Transcript: Voice and Appropriation | Nov 12, 1990

Daniel Richler appears. He is in his mid-forties, has short brown hair, and wears a black sweater. He hosts the show sitting at a round table together with his four guests. The background is black with different sized letters on it.

Daniel says IN 1988, A BATTLE TOOK PLACE
AT A TORONTO PUBLISHING HOUSE
KNOWN AS THE WOMEN'S PRESS.
IT CONCERNED THE INCLUSION
OF THREE STORIES
IN AN INTENDED ANTHOLOGY.
STORIES WRITTEN BY WHITE
WOMEN, TAKING THE VOICE OF
NON
WHITE CHARACTERS.
THE ARGUMENT SPLIT THE
WOMEN'S PRESS IN TWO.
AND SUBSEQUENTLY SPARKED A
DEBATE, A PUBLIC DEBATE OVER
THE ISSUE OF APPROPRIATION OF
VOICE, WHICH HAS POLARIZED
THE WRITING COMMUNITY
IN THIS COUNTRY.
IT'S RAISED QUESTIONS ABOUT
THE MARGINALIZATION OF
MINORITY WRITERS IN CANADA
AND CONCERNS ABOUT CENSORSHIP
OF THE MIND.
JOINING US ON OUR PANEL TO
DISCUSS THESE AND RELATED
ISSUES ARE RHEA TREGEBOV.

Rhea Tregebov appears. She is in her mid-forties, and has short curly brown hair. She wears big blue earrings, a black jacket, a blue turtleneck, and a matching neckerchief.

Daniel continues WHO EDITED THE ANTHOLOGY
FRICTIONS
THAT INCLUDES
THE DISPUTED STORIES.

Daniel shows her book. Its cover reads “Frictions. Stories by Women.”

Daniel continues HER NEXT BOOK OF POEMS,
THE PROVEN GROUND
WILL BE
PUBLISHED BY VEHICLE
PRESS NEXT SPRING.
LIBBY SCHEIER IS A POET,
TEACHER AND CONTRIBUTING
EDITOR OF
PARAGRAPH
FICTION MAGAZINE.

Libby Scheier appears. She is in her mid-fifties, and has shoulder-length brown hair. She is wearing a violet turtleneck.

Daniel continues SHE HAS TWO BOOKS OUT
CURRENTLY,
SKY POEMS
AND
LANGUAGE IN HER EYE.

Daniel shows both of her books. The cover of Sky has the silhouette of a face looking up, and the cover of Language in her Eye has a long writing in small font.

Daniel continues DUBZZ-POET-AT-LARGE, CLIFTON
JOSEPH, IS THE AUTHOR OF
METROPOLITAN BLUES.

Clifton Joseph appears. He is a young man, and has a moustache. He wears glasses, what seems to be a religious cap, a brown jacket, and a paisley shirt.

Daniel shows his book. Its cover has a drawing of a city in it.

Daniel continues HE'S BEEN ACTIVE IN THE POETRY
SCENE ACROSS THE COUNTRY.
HE HAS FOLLOWED THE ISSUE
CLOSELY AND IS ALSO ONE
OF
IMPRINT'S
CONTRIBUTING
INTERVIEWERS.
FINALLY, ANN DECTER IS A POET
AND CO
MANAGING EDITOR OF THE
WOMEN'S PRESS.

Ann Decter appears. She is in her mid-forties, and has shoulder-length brown hair. She is wearing a red shirt.

Daniel continues SHE IS AUTHOR OF
IN SISTER.

Daniel shows her book. Its cover has stick drawings of two girls.

Daniel continues A BOOK OF POEMS PUBLISHED
BY GYNERGY PRESS LAST YEAR.
WELCOME ONE AND ALL.
MAY I START WITH YOU, ANN.
IN AN EFFORT TO, I GUESS, HELP
VIEWERS GET A SENSE OF THE
HISTORY, THE HISTORICAL
BACKGROUND, WHAT SPLIT THE
WOMEN'S PRESS?
AND HOW WAS THE ISSUE OF
APPROPRIATION OF VOICE
REPRESENTED SUBSEQUENTLY
IN THE MEDIA?
I UNDERSTAND YOU FEEL
THAT THE WOMEN'S PRESS WAS
CONSISTENTLY REPORTED,
NOT FAITHFULLY.

Ann says YEAH.
INITIALLY, WHAT SPLIT WOMEN'S
PRESS WAS THE DECLARATION OF
A CAUCUS BY THE MAJORITY
OF BOARD MEMBERS WITH THE
INTENTION OF CREATING A
SET OF GUIDELINES TO HAVE
A CONSISTENT ANTIRACIST
POLICY FOR WOMEN'S PRESS.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Ann Decter, In Sister."

Ann continues AT THE BOARD MEETING MAY 11th,
THE CAUCUS WAS DECLARED.
AT THE FOLLOWING BOARD
MEETING, THOSE MEMBERS OF THE
BOARD WHO WERE NOT PART OF THE
CAUCUS INFORMED THE CAUCUS
THEY HAD HIRED A LAWYER.
AND, ESSENTIALLY, FROM
THAT POINT FORWARD
THE PRESS WAS SPLIT.
THE WOMEN WHO WEREN'T PART OF
THE CAUCUS, WHO WERE ON THE
BOARD, WENT ON TO FOUND
SECOND STORY PRESS.
SO WHAT WE SPLIT OVER WAS
ISSUES OF GUIDELINES AND THE
CONTENT OF THOSE GUIDELINES.
AND I THINK THERE WERE
PROFOUND DIFFERENCES IN HOW
WE UNDERSTOOD ANTIRACIST
PRACTICE TO BE CONDUCTED
BY A PUBLISHING COMPANY.
THERE WERE MANY ASPECTS
TO THAT UNDERSTANDING.
AND APPROPRIATION OF VOICE
OR CULTURAL APPROPRIATION IS
MERELY ONE OF THEM.
I THINK THE ATTITUDE THAT
THE MEDIA TOOK TO THE WHOLE
DISCUSSION CAN KIND OF BE
SUMMED UP IN A JOKE.

Ann smiles and continues THAT'S
RECENTLY, I'VE HEARD RECENTLY,
HOW MANY TORONTONIANS DOES IT
TAKE TO SCREW IN A LIGHT BULB?
ONE.
YOU JUST HOLD IT, AND
THE WORLD SPINS AROUND
AND AROUND YOU.
WELL, THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED.
THE WHOLE DISCUSSION
BECAME WHAT DOES THIS MEAN
TO WHITE WRITERS?
RIGHT?
AND IN OUR EFFORTS TO CHANGE
WOMEN'S PRESS, THE GOAL OF THE
CHANGE WAS TO HAVE A PRESS
THAT REPRESENTED ALL WOMEN AT
ALL LEVELS INCLUDING WHAT WE
PUBLISHED, INCLUDING WHO WAS
ON THE BOARD, INCLUDING WHO
WAS THE MEMBERSHIP, AND WHO
WAS THE STAFF.
AND THE WHOLE DISCUSSION JUST
GOT MOVED OVER TO WHO CAN
WRITE WHAT, YOU KNOW?
AND I THINK A LOT OF THE VAGUE
CRITICISM THAT I'VE HEARD
THAT I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR IN
MORE DETAIL BECAUSE I DON'T
REALLY UNDERSTAND WHERE IT'S
COMING FROM, FOCUSES ON THAT.
THAT WOMEN'S PRESS SET OUT TO
TELL WRITERS WHAT TO WRITE
AND PUBLISHERS
WHAT TO PUBLISH.
AND IT'S SIMPLY ABSURD.

Daniel says OKAY, WE'LL SEE IF WE CAN
DISPOSE OF SOME OF THE
MISCONCEPTIONS, AND I WILL
DEAL, ALSO, VERY SPECIFICALLY
WITH THOSE GUIDELINES AND
SOME OF THE CONSEQUENCES.
MAY I FIRST ASK RHEA, THE
THREE STORIES IN QUESTION
NOW ARE IN YOUR BOOK
FRICTIONS
WHICH YOU EDITED.
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THE
CHARGES AGAINST THESE STORIES
WERE LEGITIMATE?
AND TO WHAT LIMITS CAN ONE
WRITE OUTSIDE OF ONE'S
CULTURAL EXPERIENCE, PERHAPS
AS EVIDENCE IN THESE STORIES?

Rhea says OF COURSE I DON'T FEEL
THAT THE ALLEGATIONS
WERE LEGITIMATE.

A caption appears on screen. It reads “Rhea Tregebov, Frictions.”

Rhea continues I WOULDN'T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO
WITH STORIES THAT I FELT HAD
RACIST CONTENT.
AND I FEEL THAT WHILE THE
DISCUSSION THAT WENT ON ABOUT
THESE STORIES AND OTHER
STORIES IN THE BOOK WHICH WERE
NOT EXCLUDED IN THE END IS
LEGITIMATE AS A DISCUSSION
BETWEEN AUTHORS OR IS LEGITIMATE
AS AN ACADEMIC EXERCISE.
I FEEL IT'S ENTIRELY
INAPPROPRIATE FOR A PUBLISHING
HOUSE TO REJECT STORIES THAT
HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED, EDITED.
IT WAS VERY DAMAGING
TO THE AUTHORS.
IT WAS AN INCREDIBLY PAINFUL
EXPERIENCE FOR THEM.
AND I THINK ONE OF THE MOST
PAINFUL THINGS ABOUT THE
WOMEN'S PRESS SPLIT FOR ME WAS
THE DAMAGE THAT WAS DONE TO
THESE THREE AUTHORS WHO
SUBMITTED THESE STORIES IN
GOOD FAITH.
I EDITED THEM IN GOOD FAITH.

Daniel says WHAT KIND OF DAMAGE?

Rhea says WELL, I THINK, PEOPLE WHO
HAVE ANY POLITICAL COMMITMENT
WHATSOEVER TO BE CALLED A
RACIST IS EXTREMELY PAINFUL.
I KNOW IF THAT ALLEGATION
HAD BEEN MADE AGAINST ME,
IT WOULD HAVE
BEEN DEVASTATING.
MOST OF THE PEOPLE HAVE
SPECIFIC, ALL THREE OF THEM
HAVE SPECIFIC ALLEGIANCES
TO THE ANTIRACIST CAUSE.
IF YOU WERE A RACIST, IT
WOULDN'T BOTHER YOU TO BE
CALLED A RACIST.

Daniel laughs quietly.

Rhea continues IF YOU'RE NOT, IT'S
INCREDIBLY PAINFUL.

Daniel says LIBBY SCHEIER, AS OUR
REPRESENTATIVE OF THE WRITERS
UNION AT THE TIME, YOU
WERE QUITE OUTSPOKEN.
YOU WERE ONE OF THE PEOPLE
WHO SAID THE LOUDEST,
THIS IS CENSORSHIP.
YOU'VE SOFTENED YOUR POSITION
SOMEWHAT SINCE THEN?

Libby says WELL, I HAVEN'T
CHANGED MY POSITION.
I FEEL THAT MORE WEIGHT MIGHT
HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO ANOTHER
ASPECT OF THE SITUATION.

A caption appears on screen. It reads “Libby Scheier, Sky.”

Libby continues I, MYSELF, DON'T SUPPORT A
PRESCRIPTIVE APPROACH TO
WRITING AND A NOTION
OF GUIDELINES.
I THINK THE ISSUE OF CULTURAL
APPROPRIATION IS A REAL ONE,
ALTHOUGH I DON'T SUPPORT
A PRESCRIPTIVE APPROACH.
AT THE TIME, I THINK MY FIRST
REACTION WAS TO BE CONCERNED
FIRST AND FOREMOST
WITH THE CENSORSHIP.
AND I THINK THERE'S AN
UNDERLYING SITUATION THAT
BROUGHT THAT ISSUE TO THE FORE,
WHICH IS THE ISSUE OF RACISM.
AND I THINK THAT INITIALLY
IN THE DISCUSSION THAT TOOK
PLACE AMONG MANY, MANY
WRITERS, NOT ENOUGH ATTENTION
WAS GIVEN TO THE
ISSUE OF RACISM.
AND I THINK RACISM IS A
PROBLEM IN CANADIAN SOCIETY.
SO ONE WOULD ASSUME THAT THE
PUBLISHING INDUSTRY IS NOT
APART FROM CANADIAN SOCIETY.
SO IT'S A QUESTION OF WHAT
AREAS OF THE DISCUSSION WERE
GIVEN WHAT KIND OF WEIGHT.

Daniel says CLIFTON, AS A DUB POET, AND
A BLACK DUB POET AT THAT,
DO YOU FEEL A VICTIM OF A
RACIST INSTITUTION IN THE
FORM OF CANADIAN
PUBLISHING INDUSTRY?

Clifton says WELL, I MEAN, THE PUBLISHING
INDUSTRY IN THIS COUNTRY IS
NOT IMMUNE FROM HOW THE
COUNTRY ITSELF IS SET UP.
SO THAT THE RACISM YOU SEE
REFLECTED IN THE KIND OF
INSTITUTIONAL HEGEMONY THAT
EXISTED WITHIN THE SOCIETY
ALSO EXIST IN PUBLISHING.
THE FIGURES SHOW THERE ARE
ABOUT 2 PERCENT OF THE BOOKS
PUBLISHED IN THIS COUNTRY
YEARLY ARE PUBLISHED BY
WRITERS OF COLOUR.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Clifton Joseph, Dubzz-Poet-at-Large."

Clifton continues THERE'S MUCH MORE PEOPLE
WRITING THAN THAT.
IN MY COMMUNITY, CERTAINLY,
IN TERMS OF THE POETRY,
WE'VE HAD TO ACTUALLY PUBLISH
MOST OF THE DUB POETS
DAMN,
ALL
THE DUB POETS…

They all laugh.

Clifton continues HAVE HAD TO PUBLISH OUR OWN BOOKS,
REALLY, AND HAVE HAD A HARD
TIME ACCESSING THE MEDIA.
WE'VE HAD TO FIGHT FOR EVERY
INCH OF TERRITORY WE'VE GOTTEN
SO FAR.
SO WHAT HAPPENS IS BECAUSE
THE SO
CALLED CANON, AND OUR
AESTHETIC MIGHT BE DIFFERENT
THAN SAY THE MAINSTREAM'S
AESTHETIC, A LOT OF TIMES WE
ARE NOT GIVEN CONSIDERATION.
WE DON'T FIND OURSELVES
REPRESENTED IN THE PUBLISHING
HOUSES AS EDITORS, AS
PUBLISHERS, AS COPY EDITORS.
WE DON'T FIND OURSELVES
REPRESENTED IN TERMS
OF EVEN WRITERS.
SO THE APPROPRIATION ISSUE,
PART OF THE IMPORTANT PARTS OF
IT FOR ME IS HOW IT SHOWS THAT
THERE IS A FORM OF CENSORSHIP
ITSELF THAT EXISTS IN THE
WAY THE PUBLISHING AND
WRITING INDUSTRY IN THIS
COUNTRY WORKS, IN THE WAY IT
EXCLUDES AND MARGINALIZES
WRITERS LIKE MYSELF.
AND THAT'S THE BEEF I HAVE
IN TERMS OF THE PUBLISHING
INDUSTRY IN THIS COUNTRY HAS
TO BE MORE INCLUSIVE OF THE
PEOPLE WHO LIVE AND
PRODUCE WRITING HERE.

Daniel says IT'S CLEAR THERE ARE REALLY
TWO ISSUES AT STAKE HERE.
ONE IS AN INHERENT, POSSIBLY
STRUCTURAL RACISM WITHIN THE
WHITE PUBLISHING COMMUNITY.
THAT'S WHAT'S ALLEGED
ON THE ONE HAND.
THE OTHER ISSUE IS THE ONE
OF APPROPRIATION OF VOICE.
I'D LIKE TO DEAL WITH THEM
SEPARATELY, IF I CAN, BECAUSE
OTHERWISE THE VIEWERS ARE
GOING TO BE QUITE CONFUSED.
LET ME TALK ABOUT THE
APPROPRIATION OF VOICE,
FIRST OF ALL, WHICH IS
WHERE IT SORT OF BEGAN.
BELL HOOKS, AN AUTHOR WHO
CLIFTON INTERVIEWED EARLIER ON
IMPRINT
ACTUALLY SAID I'M
GOING TO QUOTE HERE, "A BLACK
MIDDLE CLASS WRITER WOULD
NOT NECESSARILY BE ANYMORE
AUTHENTIC THAN SOME WHITE
PERSON, SAY, IN CREATING THE
VOICE OF A POOR BLACK PERSON.
SHE ALLOWS, HOWEVER, THAT IT
IS IMPORTANT FOR WRITERS TO
EXAMINE THEIR OWN POINT OF
VIEW AND ASSUMPTIONS WHEN
WRITING ABOUT CHARACTERS
OF OTHER CLASSES, RACES,
AND CULTURES."
THERE SEEMS TO ME TO BE
A VERY OFTEN LINE HERE.
ON THE ONE HAND, PEOPLE ARE
BEING TOLD YOU KNOW, STAY
AWAY, THIS IS OUR TERRITORY.
AND ON THE OTHER HAND,
THEY'RE SAYING, BE SENSITIVE.
I MEAN, YOU OBVIOUSLY FELT IT
WAS NECESSARY TO MAKE SOME
GUIDELINES TO ACTUALLY TRY
TO MAKE THOSE LINES HARDER
AND MORE VISIBLE.

Ann says MORE VISIBLE
RATHER THAN HARDER.
WE WERE OPERATING IN A
SITUATION WHERE, WE HAD A
PRESS, WELL, AS LATER EVENTS
SHOWED THAT WAS CLEARLY DIVIDED
ON HOW THESE ISSUES SHOULD
BE APPROACHED, AND HOW THEY
SHOULD BE HANDLED, AND HOW
MANUSCRIPTS SHOULD BE READ.
THE POINT OF GUIDELINES WAS
TO GET A CONSISTENT POLICY
SO THAT AUTHORS WOULD KNOW IN
ADVANCE HOW THEIR MANUSCRIPTS
WERE GOING TO BE READ, AND TO
AVOID SITUATIONS LIKE THE ONE
THAT HAPPENED WITH
IMAGINING WOMEN.

Daniel says LET ME READ FROM THE
GUIDELINES, IF I MAY.

Ann says THEY'RE UNDER REVISION NOW,
SO I DON'T KNOW IF IT'S REALLY
WORTH YOUR WHILE.

Daniel says WELL, YOU'LL HAVE TO TELL
ME THEN IF THIS STILL HOLDS.
"WE WILL AVOID PUBLISHING
MANUSCRIPTS WHICH CONTAIN
IMAGERY THAT PERPETUATES THE
HIERARCHY BLACK EQUALS BAD,
WHITE EQUALS GOOD"
IT STRIKES ME THAT MARGARET
LAURENCE,
THE DIVINERS,
MIGHT
HAVE A BIT OF PROBLEM THERE
BECAUSE THE MÉTIS ARE NOT
POSSIBLY PORTRAYED AS
SYMPATHETICALLY AS SOME
MÉTIS WOULD LIKE.

Ann says NO, THAT'S LITERAL
ON LANGUAGE.
THAT'S LIKE YOUR COWBOY.
THE UNDERSTANDING OF LITERATURE
AND ART THAT WE ARE TRYING TO
EXPRESS THERE IS YOUR COWBOY
MOVIE WHERE THE GOOD GUY HAS
A WHITE HAT, AND THE BAD GUY
HAS A BLACK HAT.
AND YOU KNOW THAT WHITE
IS GOOD AND BLACK IS BAD.
SO WE ARE LOOKING FOR MATERIAL
THAT DEALS WITH WHITE AND
BLACK IN A MORE INNOVATIVE AND
PROGRESSIVE WAY THAN THAT.
RATHER THAN ASSUMING THAT IF
YOU SAY SOMETHING IS BLACK,
YOU WILL CONNOTE, IN A READER'S
MIND, THAT IT'S A BAD THING.

Daniel says SO LET ME JUST GET THIS CLEAR.
YOU ARE NOT FORBIDDING A
MANUSCRIPT THAT WOULD HAVE,
SAY, A BLACK CRIMINAL.

Ann says NO.

Daniel says IS THAT RIGHT?
OKAY.

Ann says WHAT WE TRY TO ARTICULATE,
I THINK WE DID OURSELVES
A DISSERVICE.
WE TRIED TO ARTICULATE A
REALLY SPECIFIC UNDERSTANDING
THAT HAD DEVELOPED OVER ABOUT
TWO YEARS OF DISCUSSIONS ON
MANUSCRIPTS, TWO YEARS OF A
WIDE VARIETY OF POLITICAL
OPINIONS WITHIN THE PRESS.
AND WE HAD TO COME TO
SOME KIND OF CONSENSUS.
AND AS LATER EVENTS
PROVED, IT WASN'T POSSIBLE.
BUT WE FELT THE MORE CLEARLY
WE COULD ARTICULATE THE WAY IN
WHICH MANUSCRIPTS WOULD BE
READ BEFORE THEY ARRIVED AT
THE PRESS, WE WOULD FIRST PUT
PEOPLE ON FAIR NOTICE ABOUT
THESE KINDS OF CONCERNS.
AND IF THEY DIDN'T BELIEVE
IN THOSE KINDS OF CONCERNS,
THEY WOULDN'T SUBMIT TO US.
AND, SECONDLY, THAT WE WOULD
HAVE EVERYONE IN THE PRESS
ATTEMPTING TO READ
MANUSCRIPTS IN THE SAME WAY.

Daniel says MAY I ASK ANY OF YOU,
I SUPPOSE, THERE WAS A
COMPILATION OF CONTEMPORARY
CANADIAN NATIVE FICTION EDITED
BY THOMAS KING CALLED
ALL
MY RELATIONS
IN WHICH,
BETH BRANT, A NATIVE WRITER,
WRITES ABOUT A BLACK
70
YEAR
OLD HOMOSEXUAL
FORMER BLUES MUSICIAN.
IS THIS APPROPRIATION
OF VOICE?

Rhea says I THINK IT'S A
DAMN GOOD STORY.
I READ IT.

They all laugh.

Rhea continues AND TO ME, ACTUALLY, THE
QUALITY OF THE PIECE OF
WRITING IS THE LITMUS TEST
FOR THESE KINDS OF CONCERNS.
I THINK IT'S ALWAYS BEEN A
CONCERN WHETHER A PIECE OF
WRITING IS AUTHENTIC ENOUGH.
THAT'S BOTH A VALID SOCIAL
CONCERN FOR THE PIECE OF
WRITING, AND IT'S ALSO A
VALID LITERARY CONCERN.
SO I THINK THE NOTION, I THINK
THE WOMEN'S PRESS GUIDELINES
ARE STUPID BECAUSE I THINK
THEY ARE VERY CONDESCENDING
BOTH TO THE WRITERS AND TO
THE AUDIENCE TO SO NARROWLY
AND SPECIFICALLY, THOU SHALT
DO THIS, THOU SHALT NOT DO THAT.

Ann says IT'S NOT A QUESTION
OF WHAT YOU DO.
IT'S A QUESTION OF WHAT
WE ARE WILLING TO PUBLISH.
AND I THINK IT IS SIMPLY
FAIR NOTICE TO TELL PEOPLE,
IN ADVANCE, HOW A
MANUSCRIPT WILL BE READ,
AND WHAT WE ARE
WILLING TO PUBLISH.
I'VE READ MANUSCRIPTS THAT
I KNOW WOMEN'S PRESS
WOULDN'T PUBLISH.
WHEN I FINISH READING THEM, IF
I THINK THERE'S REASONS WHY
WE WOULDN'T PUBLISH THEM,
FIRST I ARTICULATE THOSE TO
THE AUTHOR.
THEN I SAY, IF YOU SHARE THESE
SAME CONCERNS, AND YOU WOULD
LIKE TO REWORK THE MANUSCRIPT
WITH REGARD TO THOSE CONCERNS,
FEEL FREE TO RESUBMIT IT
AND I WILL READ IT AGAIN.
IF NOT, THERE ARE MANY OTHER
PUBLISHING HOUSES IN THIS CITY
WHO WOULD PROBABLY
LIKE TO LOOK AT THIS.
IT'S VERY WELL WRITTEN.
SO I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY IT
IS PERCEIVED AS PRESCRIPTIVE.

Daniel says AS I READ IT FROM THE OUTSIDE
BECAUSE THE WOMEN'S PRESS IS
A PRESTIGIOUS PRESS, IT'S
THE OLDEST MOST HIGHLY
REGARDED FEMINIST PRESS.

Rhea says AND HIGHLY FUNDED.

Daniel says OKAY.
A GUIDELINE, A SET OF
GUIDELINES IS POSSIBLY GOING
TO HAVE A CHILLING
EFFECT ON PEOPLE.
AS A WRITER YOURSELF,
RHEA, DID YOU FIND
IT HAD A CHILLING EFFECT?

Rhea says WELL, I THINK…

Daniel says AT LARGE.
MAY I SAY BEYOND THE WALLS
OF THE WOMEN'S PRESS.
I THINK THAT'S WHAT'S
UPSETTING PEOPLE.

Rhea says I THINK IT'S ASTONISHING THAT
A PUBLISHING HOUSE COULD FEEL
IT HAS SO MUCH OF ONE MIND
THAT THEY KNOW IN ADVANCE,
BEFORE THEY EVEN SEE THE
MANUSCRIPT, YOU KNOW, THAT
CERTAIN KINDS OF LITERARY
FORMS, OR CERTAIN KINDS OF
SET UPS. IT PRECLUDES
THE CONCEPT OF IRONY.
IT PRECLUDES THE
CONCEPT OF PARODY.
I THINK IT IS SO
LITERAL
MINDED, AND I THINK
THAT THE GUIDELINES WERE
WRITTEN FROM A POINT OF VIEW
THAT IS SO ACADEMIC AND
INCREDIBLY DISTANT FROM THE
ACTUAL WRITING PROCESS ITSELF.
I THINK IT COULD ONLY HAVE
BEEN CONCEIVED OF BY PEOPLE
WHO ARE VERY DISTANT
FROM THE WRITING PROCESS.

Libby says I'D LIKE TO JUST LOOK AT THIS
FROM A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT
ANGLE, RATHER THAN DEALING
WITH THE SHOULDS AND
SHOULDN'TS, AND THE
PRESCRIPTIONS AND
PROSCRIPTIONS, AND LOOK AT
CERTAIN BODIES OF LITERATURE.
FOR EXAMPLE, BLACK AMERICAN
WRITING OF THE LAST 40 YEARS,
WOMEN'S WRITING OF
THE LAST 20 YEARS.
AND WITHIN THAT, FOR EXAMPLE,
WRITING ABOUT CHILD SEXUAL
ABUSE IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS.
AND MY OWN NEW BOOK OF POEMS,
SKY, DEALS IN PART WITH AN
EXPERIENCE OF SEXUAL
ASSAULT IN MY CHILDHOOD.
NOW, I THINK THAT THOSE BODIES
OF LITERATURE, AND IT'S
BECOMING A BODY OF LITERATURE
IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS TO
RAISE THE ISSUE OF SEXUAL
ASSAULT IN AN OPEN WAY.
AND THE QUESTION IS, THOSE
BODIES OF LITERATURE WOULD NOT
EXIST IN THE WAY IN WHICH THEY
EXIST WITHOUT THE OWN VOICES
SPEAKING, WITHOUT THE
AUTHENTIC VOICES SPEAKING.
AND THAT IS NOT TO SAY,
THOUGH, FROM MY POINT OF VIEW,
THAT I DON'T SAY, THEREFORE,
THAT A WHITE PERSON SHOULD NOT
WRITE A BLACK NOVEL, A
MAN SHOULD NOT WRITE
A WOMAN'S NOVEL.
AND SOMEONE WHO HAS NEVER BEEN
SEXUALLY ABUSED IS WRONG TO
TAKE UP THAT SUBJECT.
BUT THE WRITING, I BELIEVE,
WILL BE GENERALLY DIFFERENT.
AND WHEN WE SEE THAT MOST, FOR
EXAMPLE, NATIVE WRITING, AT
LEAST IN THE PAST IN THIS
COUNTRY, OR NATIVE SUBJECT
MATTER, HAS BEEN PUT FORWARD
BY WHITES, WE ARE GETTING A
DIFFERENT BODY OF LITERATURE
THAN WE GET WHEN THE NATIVE
WRITERS COME FORWARD.
AND IT'S IMPORTANT TO DISCUSS
THE ISSUE AND FIND A WAY FOR
THOSE VOICES WHO HAVE HAD
THE EXPERIENCES TO BE HEARD
WITHOUT FORBIDDING THE OTHER,
WHOEVER WANTS TO GET INTO THE
FRAY, YOU KNOW?

Daniel says MAY I ASK CLIFTON, THERE ARE
SOME ALARMIST WORDS THAT GO
FLYING IN THESE DISCUSSIONS
WHEN PEOPLE BECOME ANGRY OR
POLITICALLY MOTIVATED.
WORDS LIKE RACISM
AND CENSORSHIP.
DO YOU THINK THIS IS ACTIVE
CENSORSHIP, OR A FORM OF IT
IN SOME KIND OF
MODERN MUTATION?

Clifton says NOT REALLY.
IF I WAS TO SHIFT TO MUSIC,
FOR INSTANCE, AND SOMEONE LIKE
PAUL SIMON WHO, BECAUSE HE
IS SITUATED AT A HIGH LEVEL
INSIDE THE MUSIC INDUSTRY, CAN
GO TO SOUTH AFRICA AND RECORD
WITH SOME SOUTH
AFRICAN MUSICIANS.
CAN GO BACK TO MOTHER AND
CHILD REUNION AND GO INTO
JAMAICA AND RECORD WITH
JAMAICAN MUSICIANS, AND NOW
ON HIS LATEST PRODUCT, CAN GO
TO BRAZIL AND RECORD WITH
BRAZILIAN MUSICIANS.
SO BECAUSE WHITE WRITERS
SOMETIMES ARE LOCATED HIGHER
UP IN THE CHAIN, WHAT HAPPENS
IS THE VOICES THAT WILL THEN
COME INTO WHICHEVER
COMMUNITIES AND USE THE STYLES
AND USE THE CHARACTERS AND
SO ON, SOMETIMES WILL GET A
LARGER PLAY INSIDE OF THE
PUBLISHING INDUSTRY, INSIDE OF
THE INDUSTRY PERIOD.
SO THAT IS ONE OF THE PROBLEMS
WE HAVE WITH THE WHOLE QUESTION
OF APPROPRIATION.
SO IT IS ONE OF THE THINGS WE
CAN POINT OUT AND SAY, WELL,
LOOK, HOLD ON, AND BACK OFF.
WE NEED A CHANCE TO DO
THE THINGS WE ARE DOING.
AND WE HAVE A POSITION ON
THESE THINGS THAT YOU ARE
WRITING ABOUT.
AND BECAUSE IT
POLITICIZES, IT PUTS THE
WRITER IN A POLITICAL
SITUATION THAT THEY CANNOT SAY
THEY DON'T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO
WITH HOW THE SOCIAL REALITY IS.
THAT YOU JUST WRITE WHAT YOU
WRITE, AND THEN YOU HAVE NO
OTHER OBLIGATIONS.

Daniel says SOME PEOPLE, I'VE TALKED TO
A NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THE
PUBLISHING INDUSTRY, AND THEY
THROW UP THEIR HANDS AND THEY
SAY, I DON'T BELIEVE IT.
WHAT INTEREST WOULD WE HAVE IN
BEING RACIST, IN SHUTTING OUT
BLACK WRITERS, FOR EXAMPLE?
THEY CITE EXAMPLES LIKE TONI
MORRISON, OF COURSE, AND THEY
SAY, EVERYBODY WOULD WANT
A CANADIAN TONI MORRISON,
FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE.
HOW DOES IT BENEFIT
US IN THAT WAY?

Libby says I DON'T THINK IT'S
A CONSCIOUS PROCESS.

They all laugh.

Ann says WHY ISN'T THERE ONE?

Libby says WELL, THERE IS ONE.
MAYBE THEY'RE
COMING FORWARD NOW.
BUT I THINK IT'S NOT
A CONSCIOUS PROCESS.
THERE WAS ONE PUBLISHER WHO
NOTED MANUSCRIPTS DON'T COME
OVER THE TRANSOM COLOUR
CODED, AND FAIR ENOUGH.
BUT MOST PUBLISHING, MOST
STUFF DOESN'T GET PUBLISHED
THAT WAY.
MOST WORK GETS PUBLISHED, IF
YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL IN GETTING
ENTRY TO A CERTAIN NETWORK.
AND BECAUSE THERE IS RACISM IN
CANADIAN SOCIETY, GENERALLY
SPEAKING, AND THIS IS
CHANGING, FORTUNATELY, WRITERS
OF COLOUR ARE NOT AS
INTEGRATED INTO THE NETWORKS
THAT LEAD TO PUBLISHING.
AND I THINK IT KIND
OF HAPPENS LIKE THAT.
AND ALL THIS DISCUSSION
SHOULD HELP TO CHANGE IT.
BY THE WAY, THERE ARE MANY
DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW, AS
FAR AS I KNOW, AMONG WRITERS
OF COLOUR AS WELL ON THIS.
IN THE ESSAY
THERE IS A
NUMBER OF WRITERS OF COLOUR
WHO EXPRESS ALL DIFFERENT
KINDS OF POINTS OF VIEW.
SO IT'S NOT NECESSARILY
SPLIT ON A WHITE COLOUR WAY.

Daniel says NO, I UNDERSTAND
THE COMPLICATIONS.
YOU'VE ALSO SAID THAT WHITE
FEMINISTS ARE, IN FACT, MORE
SYMPATHETIC AND SENSITIVE TO
THE ISSUES RAISED BY WOMEN OF
COLOUR. I'M QUOTING YOU FROM
AN EARLIER INTERVIEW, IF I MAY.

Libby says I SAID WHAT?

They all laugh.

Daniel says YOU SAID, AS A RESULT OF YEARS
OF FEMINIST STRUGGLES OF YOUR
OWN, YOU'VE BECOME THE ONES WHO
ARE MOST WILLING TO DIALOGUE,
THE ONES WHO HAVE BEEN
MOST WILLING TO LISTEN.
OKAY.
THAT MAKES SENSE TO ME.
BUT I WONDER WHY, IF THAT'S
SO, WHY IS THERE POSSIBLY THIS
INTER-NESTING SQUABBLING GOING
ON AT A LEVEL THAT SEEMS TO
ME CAN'T AFFORD TO FIGHT?
I MEAN, THE WOMEN'S PRESS, AS
ADMIRED AS IT MAY BE, IS NOT
AS LARGE AS ANY OF THE MAIN
PRESSES IN THIS COUNTRY.
IT'S NOW SPLIT IN TWO.
IS THAT ULTIMATELY NOT MORE
DAMAGING TO THE CAUSE?
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS
AND ENEMIES IN THIS BATTLE?

Rhea says I THINK IT WAS TREMENDOUSLY
DAMAGING TO THE CAUSE.
IT WAS A VERY UGLY THING WHAT
WENT ON AT THE WOMEN'S PRESS.
I MEAN, PEOPLE LOST
THEIR LIVELIHOOD.
PEOPLE LOST MOST OF THEIR
LIFE'S WORKS, A FEW OF THEM.
AND I THINK THE DAMAGE HAS
BEEN INCREDIBLE TO THE WOMEN
WHO WERE EXCLUDED FROM
THE WOMEN'S PRESS.
AND THE DAMAGE TO THE WRITERS
HAS ALSO BEEN, I THINK
THERE'S ALSO, UNFORTUNATELY,
BEEN DAMAGE TO THE
CREDIBILITY OF THE
WHOLE DISCUSSION.
WHEREAS WHEN WE REMAIN IN
DIALOGUE WITH EACH OTHER,
AND WE DON'T EXCLUDE
PEOPLE FROM THE DISCOURSE,
WE CAN GET SOME PLACE.
BUT ONCE PEOPLE ARE EXCLUDED
FROM THE DISCOURSE, AND MADE
TO BE BAD, AND NOT WORTH
SPEAKING TO, THAT IS WHEN THE
DAMAGE HAPPENS.
THERE WAS A LONG

Ann says WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
EXCLUSION AND WITHDRAWAL?

Daniel says WHAT DO YOU MEAN,
MAY I ASK?

Ann says I MEAN, WHEN PEOPLE
WITHDRAW FROM A DIALOGUE.

Libby says THEY DIDN'T WITHDRAW,
THEY WERE EXCLUDED, ANN.

Ann says THIS ISN'T REALLY MOVING A
DISCUSSION ALONG THAT IS VERY
IMPORTANT FOR ALL WRITERS IN
CANADA AND FOR THE MILIEU IN
WHICH WE ALL
WRITE AND PUBLISH.
NO ONE CHOOSES
TO MAKE ENEMIES.
NO ONE CHOOSES TO DRIVE PEOPLE
OUT OF THEIR LIVELIHOOD.

Rhea says THIS HAPPENED
INADVERTENTLY, ANN?
I MEAN, YOU JUST SUDDENLY
EXCLUDE, CHANGED THE LOCKS
ON THE DOOR?

Daniel says I WISH WE HAD TIME TO TALK
ABOUT THE LOCKS ON THE DOOR.

Ann says WE DON'T, AND IT'S IRRELEVANT,
AND THERE WASN'T A LOCK OUT.
AND I'D LIKE TO SAY AT LEAST
ONCE SOMEWHERE PUBLICLY.

Daniel says WHAT I'M TRYING TO GET TO
IS THE BROADER CONSEQUENCES
OF THIS, AND HOW WRITERS,
PUBLISHERS, READERS WATCHING
THIS PROGRAM MIGHT BE ADVISED
TO PROCEED FROM HERE ON IN.
DO YOU COLLECTIVELY BELIEVE
THIS DIALOGUE IS GOOD INASMUCH
AS IT MAKES PEOPLE AWARE
THEY ARE NOT READING ENOUGH
BY WRITERS OF COLOUR.
THAT THESE KINDS OF WRITERS
ARE MARGINALIZED AND WE LIVE A
RATHER COMPLACENT WHITE
MIDDLE CLASS LIFE.

Libby says I THINK THE GENERAL DISCUSSION
THAT'S BEEN GOING ON IS IT'S
GOOD THERE IS A GENERAL
DISCUSSION AMONG CANADIAN
WRITERS, BLACK AND WHITE AND
OF OTHER COLOURS, MEN AND WOMEN.
AND IT SOMETIMES HAS
GOTTEN VERY ABRASIVE.
I HAVE NOT HAD A GOOD TIME
IN THIS DISCUSSION AND WAS
SOMEWHAT RELUCTANT TO
TALK ABOUT IT AGAIN.
BUT I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT, AND
I THINK WE SHOULD TAKE THE RISK
OF PEOPLE BEING ANGRY AT US.
AND I DO THINK RAISING THE
PROFILE OF THE ISSUE IS AN
IMPORTANT PART OF GETTING MORE
WRITERS OF COLOUR INTO PRINT.
TO ME, I THINK IT PARALLELS WHAT
HAPPENED WITH WOMEN WRITERS.
IF YOU LOOK AT POETRY
ANTHOLOGIES UP TO 1975 OR
SOMETHING, YOU'LL FIND
THERE IS 20 PERCENT WOMEN.
SINCE 1980, YOU CAN'T PICK UP
AN ANTHOLOGY THAT ISN'T HALF
WOMEN, AT LEAST.
AND NO ONE HAS EVER
SAID I CHANGED MY WAYS,
I RESPONDED TO PRESSURE.
BUT I BELIEVE THAT'S WHAT
HAPPENED BECAUSE OF ALL
THE WILL FUSS THAT'S
MADE ABOUT IT.
AND THERE IS A LOT OF
UNFORTUNATE BRUISING
ALONG THE WAY.
I MEAN, THERE'S A SAYING,
RADICALS MAKE THE CHANGES AND
THE MODERATES BENEFIT.

They all laugh quietly.

Libby continues AND I THINK THERE'S
SOMETHING TO THAT.
AND I THINK SOMETIMES THE
RADICALS GET SHAFTED BECAUSE
PEOPLE ARE ANGRY AT THEM
FOR BEING OBNOXIOUS.
AND YET, IT'S THAT KIND
OF PRESSURE APPLIED THAT
EVENTUALLY BRINGS CHANGES.

Daniel says CLIFTON, DO YOU THINK
BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY?

Clifton says CERTAINLY.
THAT'S ALWAYS BEEN
A CREDO OF MINE.
I THINK IT WAS IMPORTANT
TO RAISE THE ISSUE.
AND THE ISSUE HAS HIGHLIGHTED
A NUMBER OF OTHER CONCERNS.
UNFORTUNATELY, A LOT OF IT,
IN THE BEGINNING, WAS LIKE A
DIFFERENT POSITION OF WHETHER
YOU WERE FOR CENSORSHIP OR
WHETHER YOU WERE
AGAINST CENSORSHIP.
BUT SOME OF THE LARGER
QUESTIONS OF WHAT ARE SOME OF
THE THINGS THAT CAN HAPPEN.
CERTAINLY, I'M FAMILIAR WITH
SOME OF THE OTHER ASPECTS OF
THE WOMEN'S PRESS SITUATION
IS THEY'VE DONE OTHER THINGS
LIKE AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
HIRING PROGRAM AND TO HIRE
SPECIFIC PEOPLE FROM
CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS.
WHEN THEY ARE DEALING
WITH NATIVE STORIES,
THEY'LL HIRE NATIVE
ILLUSTRATORS.

Daniel says CHANGE THE VERY MECHANISM.

Clifton says SO, YEAH, WE NEED, IT'S
VERY EASY FOR A LOT
OF THE MAINSTREAM PUBLISHERS
WHO WILL SAY MANUSCRIPTS ARE
COLOUR BLIND.
WELL, I DON'T THINK SO
TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH.
AND WE'LL GET DEFENSIVE AND
SAY THERE ISN'T SUCH A THING
AS RACISM WITHIN
PUBLISHING IN THIS COUNTRY.
BUT THE FACT IS THERE IS.
AND WHAT WE WANT TO SEE IS NOT
JUST FOR PUBLISHERS TO, YOU
KNOW, TAKE A FEW BLACK WRITERS
AND TO PUT THEM OUT THERE,
AND I MIGHT NOT EVEN BE THE
RIGHT SET OF BLACK WRITERS AS
BELL HOOKS.

They all laugh quietly.

Clifton continues SAY, IT MIGHT
BE THE SOFT JIVE ONES.
WE WANT TO SEE MORE LASTING
CHANGE, MORE STRUCTURAL
CHANGES INSIDE OF HOW THE
PUBLISHING INDUSTRY WORKS.
FOR INSTANCE, WITH THE
MAINSTREAM PUBLISHERS,
THEY LIKE TO SAY PUBLISHING
IS MARKET DRIVEN.
THEN WHY THE HELL DO THEY
STILL GET ALL THESE BIG GRANTS
FROM THE FUNDING
BODIES IN THIS COUNTRY?
AND CAN THEY REALLY
SURVIVE ON THE MARKET?
SO IF YOU GET GOVERNMENT
GRANT, ESPECIALLY, I THINK YOU
HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO BE
MORE REFLECTIVE OF THE WHOLE
WRITING COMMUNITY
IN THIS COUNTRY.
AND THAT'S WHAT WE
ARE LOOKING FOR.
MAJOR STRUCTURAL
CHANGES IN PUBLISHING.

Daniel says THANK YOU VERY
MUCH, EVERYBODY.
WE WILL CONTINUE
THIS AT A LATER DATE.
IN FACT, IT IS EVIDENT THAT
IT'S AN ISSUE THAT SHOULD BE
OF INTEREST TO ALL PEOPLE
WHO ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THE
PROCESS OF CREATIVE
WRITING IN THIS COUNTRY.
YOU CAN BE SURE WE WILL
BE TRACKING THE ISSUE ON
IMPRINT
AS THE MONTHS,
AND HOPEFULLY YEARS, GO BY.

Watch: Voice and Appropriation