With this year’s edition of the Word on the Street festival set to run from September 28 to 30, we asked some of the writers on the wildly diverse bill to tell us about the reading experiences that shaped them. Which book left deep impressions early on? Which one overhauled the way they see and think about the world, and set them on a path to a literary life?
Here’s what W.H. New told us. New is a Vancouver-born poet, critic, and editor, and the author of the 2011 poetry collection YVR.
He’ll be reading from his work at 1:45 p.m. on September 30, in the Poetry Tent outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
Books were scarce in my childhood home. I remember the blue-bound Books of Knowledge and a tattered copy of The Wizard of Oz, but I think my path to reading was largely aural. I heard stories at home, rhymes as well, lots of talk in the neighbourhood.
I listened to even more tales on the radio, and especially remember a CBC program called Cuckoo Clock House, which recommended Books for Young Readers. One day, with my list of titles in hand, I marched off to the old South Hill Library and borrowed Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates.
For days I lived with those characters on the threatening edge of the cold North Sea. And looking back now, I think it was learning to hear the cadences of language, in the voice and on the page, that encouraged me to write.