Fred Wah’s Permissions was the 2013 Garnett Sedgewick Memorial Lecture, a lecture series that honours the first head of English at the University of British Columbia, who served from 1920 to 1948. It was an interesting event if only because the TISH writers have not been especially welcome on the UBC campus in the fifty years since 1963. This frostiness has occurred partly because of ideological splits within the English department during the TISH years, partly because TISH mentor and professor Warren Tallman viewed most of the department as “drones” (see my When TISH Happens 190) and in return was regarded, together with some of his students, by many of his traditionalist colleagues as insufficiently academic, and partly also because of hostility from UBC’s careerist Department of Creative Writing (see http://bcbooklook.com/2014/03/17/ubc-creative-writings-50th/) that was founded in 1964.
Not surprisingly Wah indicates some unease about his situation at the beginning of his lecture, noting that he’s been away from university teaching for ten years and is “feeling a little numb and rusty about the kind of discourse you might expect of me,” and confessing that even during his teaching years there had been “a necessary pretense in my critical writing” (9). Of the original five TISH editors, he was the only one, as I recall, who had not been a major in the Garnett Sedgwick-founded Department of English – an irony of which he was possibly aware.
Having noted his reservations, he then presents an accurate two-page summary of the 1960-63 TISH years and the North American literary context in which they occurred of “flare-ups” in search of "permission" to practice "a poetry