Wah was born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, but grew up in the interior (West Kootenay) of British Columbia. His father was born in Canada and raised in China, the son of a Chinese father and a Scots-Irish mother. Wah's mother was a Swedish-born Canadian who came to Canada at age 6. His diverse ethnic makeup figures significantly in his writings.
Wah studied literature and music at the University of British Columbia. While there, he was a founding editor and contributor to TISH. He later did graduate work at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. He has taught at Selkirk College, David Thompson University Centre, and the University of Calgary. Well known for his work on literary journals and small-press, Wah has been a contributing editor to Open Letter since its beginning, involved in the editing of West Coast Line, and with Frank Davey edited the world's first online literary magazine, SwiftCurrent. Wah won the 'Governor General's Award' for his 1985 book "Waiting for Saskatchewan".
Wah retired after 40 years of teaching and lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with his wife Pauline Butling. He remains active writing and performing public readings of his poetry. From 2006 to 2007, he served as the Writer-in-Residence at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia.
On December 20, 2011, Wah was appointed as Canada's Parliamentary Poet Laureate. He is the fifth poet to hold this office. In 2013 he was made an Officer in the Order of Canada.
- Bachelor of Arts - English Literature and Music - University of British Columbia
- Master of Arts - Literature and Linguistics - University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
- Waiting for Saskatchewan - 1985 (1985 Governor General's Award for poetry)
- So Far - 1991 (1982 Stephanson Award for Poetry)
- Diamond Grill - 1996 (Writers Guild of Alberta Howard O'Hagan Prize for Short Fiction)
- Faking It - 2001 (Gabrielle Roy Prize for Criticism (Association for Canadian and Quebec Literatures)
- Is A Door 2010 (Dorothy Livesay B.C. Book Prize for poetry)
- Lardeau (1965)
- Mountain (1967)
- Among (1972)
- Tree (1972)
- Earth (1974)
- Pictograms from the Interior of B.C. (1975)
- Selected Poems: Loki is Buried at Smoky Creek (1980)
- Owners Manual (1981)
- Breathin' My Name With a Sigh Talonbooks, 1981, ISBN 9780889221888
- Grasp The Sparrow's Tail (1982)
- Waiting for Saskatchewan Turnstone Press Canada, 1985, ISBN 9780888011008
- The Swift Current Anthology (1986; edited with Frank Davey)
- Rooftops (1987)
- Music at the Heart of Thinking (1987)
- Limestone Lakes Utaniki (1989)
- So Far (1991)
- Alley Alley Home Free (1992)
- Diamond Grill Edmonton: NeWest Press, 1996; NeWest, 2006, ISBN 9781897126110
- Faking It: Poetics and Hybridity Critical Writing 1984-1999. NeWest Press, 2000, ISBN 9781896300078
- Isadora Blue (La Mano Izquierda Impressora, Victoria, 2005)
- Articulations (Nomados, Vancouver, 2007)
- Sentenced to Light (2008)
- is a door Talonbooks, 2009. ISBN 9780889226203
- Permissions: Tish Poetics 1963 Thereafter- (Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2014) 33 pp. ISBN 978 1 55380 329 4
- Scree: The Collected Earlier Poems 1962-1991 (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2015) 633 pp. ISBN 978 0 88922 948 8
- Music at the Heart of Thinking a poetry collection published in July 2020.
- Banting, Pamela. Body Inc.: A Theory of Translation Poetics. Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1995.
- Diehl-Jones, Charlene. Fred Wah and His Works. Toronto: ECW Press, 1996.
- Louis Cabri, ed. (2009). The False Laws of Narrative: The Poetry of Fred Wah. Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press. ISBN 9781554580460.
- John Z. Ming Chen: The Influence of Daoism on Asian-Canadian Writers. Mellen, 2008.
- Jilang Su, Billy K. L. So, Gungwu Wang, John Fitzgerald, Jianli Huang, James K. Chin, Contributors Billy K. L. So, John Fitzgerald (2003). Power and Identity in the Chinese World Order. Hong Kong University Press. p. 323. ISBN 962-209-590-9.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-12-01. Retrieved 2005-11-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Pauline Butling; Susan Rudy (2005). Poets Talk. University of Alberta. pp. 143. ISBN 0-88864-431-0.
- "12 Canadian books coming out in July we can't wait to read". CBC Books. 2020-07-07. Retrieved 2020-07-08.
- The Fred Wah Digital Archive
- University of Toronto Canadian Poets Profile
- Ryerson University Asian Heritage in Canada Authors
- FFWD:WEEKLY: Tough-Minded poet Fred Wah leaves legacy at U of C
- Wah Writers' Union Membership Page
- Fred Wah, Electronic Poetry Center
- Records of Fred Wah are held by Simon Fraser University's Special Collections and Rare Books
| Parliamentary Poet Laureate