bissett’s latest book marks some significant boundaries, draws some sharp, clear lines for this veteran of the evolving phonetic alphabet, and of sound, concrete and performance poetry. While the work remains overwhelmingly playful, subtly layered, and full of the astonishment and sheer delight at seeing and hearing things one has never quite thought of the way the poet/performer imagines them before, there is a new edginess to this work that will shake up both old fans and new readers of what can only be called the unique bill bissett experience in language.
These new sharper edges come, quite generously, from the poet’s own re-assesment of where the self ends, and the other begins, and a growing recognition that those boundaries often need to be imposed, and defended, if destructive relationships of co-dependency are to be avoided.
bissett’s usual biting, acute, often deliciously comic interrogation of the socio-political events towering around us like so many boxes we need constantly to think, feel and imagine our way out of, is counterposed in this collection by a recurring dream of a future wherein 20 billion people are locked in a global war on the poisoned surface of the planet while a small minority of peace-loving libertarians have garrisoned themselves into a scanner-protected, completely virtualized underground. While the Bill Gates compound reference of this recurring nightmare is inescapable, the text remains profoundly ambivalent about where one might be better off. There’s just a touch of scariness here in bissett’s latest exuberant rage through the urban wilderness of our time.
bill bissett opened Canadian poetry to postmodernism and from there proceeded in every direction all at once. Since his invention of the blewointment press in 1963, bissett has worked diligently to explode all boundaries of author, text, and context, radically disrupting static and disciplinary modes of art making. Read, taught, studied, and imitated all around the world, he now lives in Toronto, painting and writing somewhere between painting and poetry.
derek beaulieu is the author 9 books of poetry and conceptual fiction, editor of the acclaimed small presses housepress and No Press and co-editor of Writing Surfaces: the Selected Fiction of John Riddell (2013). He is an instructor at Mount Royal University and the Alberta College of Art + Design. beaulieu's Seen of the Crime: Essays on Conceptual Writing was published in 2011.
Gregory Betts is the Director of Canadian Studies and the Graduate Program Director of Canadian and American Studies at Brock University. He is the author of five books of poetry, and the editor of four books of experimental Canadian writing. His monograph Avant-Garde Canadian Literature: The Early Manifestations is forthcoming from the University of Toronto Press.