Sally Ito is a poet and fiction writer. She was born in Taber, Alberta, and currently lives in Winnipeg. She has published three books of poetry, Frogs in the Rain Barrel, A Season of Mercy, and Alert to Glory, as well as a collection of short stories called Floating Shore. Ito has also studied in Japan, and has done translations of contemporary Japanese poetry. She teaches creative writing in Winnipeg and is a former blog contributor to the multicultural children’s literature blog and website, PaperTigers.
In your workshop description you quote Carl Jung: “we are a psychic process which we do not control, or only partly direct.” How does this relate to your writing and experiences?
I think one’s consciousness expands and grows as one matures and therefore in the earlier stages of one’s becoming, one is unaware of the forces outside of one self that has shaped the self. For example, you would obviously be a different kind of person if your father and mother did not meet, or immigrated or did not immigrate, or choose to settle where you were born and raised, etc. Only after we are capable of making decisions about our lives can we see how certain things affected the way we were as children and the way we are now as adults. Writing was and is a way of discerning for me and better articulating what happened to me and what happened because I made it happen. I once read somewhere that humans are like vessels on a potter’s wheel. When a potter makes a vessel, s/he applies pressure from the inside and pressure from the outside to shape the vessel’s walls. So you can think of outside forces like one’s environment as the outer hand, and the person’s will working on the clay as the inner hand.
Given Jung’s quote about the inability to control one’s life, would you consider yourself a determinist? Why or why not?
I think I’ve answered the question above. I’m not a determinist, because I do believe in free will and the agency of the self, but it is the self in relation to others, including those so-called ‘pre-existing causes’ that creates a person or makes a person into who he or she is now. Speaking theologically, there is one’s own will and God’s will, and these are not the same thing.
You have lived in a number of different places including Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and Japan. How have these locations and experiences affected your writing?
The places I’ve lived affected the person I was at the time. The vastness and beauty of the Northwest Territories affected my childish self in ways that it would not have had I moved there as an adult. It’s true that you are impressionable as a child, but when as adult you write about the places you were as a child, it is the strongest impressions that linger and that you understand had an impact on who you became later. Interestingly enough, I feel differently about my childhood experience in the north compared to my childhood experiences in Japan. Those two years I spent as a child in the northwest territories had more of an impact on who I became as a writer than the many visits I made to Japan earlier as a child which I could barely remember. It was only when I went to Japan in high school that Japan made an impact on me, because in high school I was struggling with my cultural identity and going to Japan suddenly made things much clearer to me about who I was a Japanese Canadian.