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bill bissett. Photo by Dave Hawe, courtesy the offishul web site 4 bill bissett.

bill bissett (born November 23, 1939) is a Canadian poet famous for his anti-conventional style. He does not capitalize his name or use initial capitalization in his writing.[1]

bissett has been called the "Godfather of Canadian Poetry".[2]


youth and educationEdit

bissett was born William Frederick Bissett in Halifax, Nova Scotia.[3] That is the official story, anyway; bissett himself gave a different account of his origins to Canadian Literature in 2010: "originalee from lunaria i arrivd on erth with th first childrns shuttul 2 erth from that planet".[4]

He was the son of a judge, who wanted his son to choose the same career. However, young bill wanted to be a figure skater or ballet dancer, until an attack of peritonitis at age 10 ruined those ambitions.[5]

He recalls being beaten up, and having rocks being thrown at him, in school because he was gay.[5]

He attended Dalhousie University in 1956, but dropped out because of an overriding desire to live as a free agent, writer and painter unencumbered by any academic constraints.

At age 17, he ran away with his boyfriend, arriving in Vancouver in 1958. "I had seen this documentary in Halifax about how much drugs and sex there was in Vancouver," he later recalled, "and I found that incredibly appealing."[5]

In 1963 he enrolled at the University of British Columbia, but dropped out in 1965.He did complete course requirements for his majors in English and philosophy.


Bill Bissett and BP Nichol - 1 - Interviewed by Phillis Webb

Bill Bissett and BP Nichol - 1 - Interviewed by Phillis Webb

Bill Bissett and BP Nichol - 2 - Interviewed by Phillis Webb-0

Bill Bissett and BP Nichol - 2 - Interviewed by Phillis Webb-0

In 1963 he started blew ointment magazine. He later launched blewointment press, which has published volumes by Cathy Ford, Maxine Gadd, Michael Coutts, Hart Broudy, Rosemary Hollingshead, Beth Jankola, Carolyn Zonailo, bpNichol, Ken West, Lionel Kearns and D.A. Levy.

bissett divides his time between Vancouver and Toronto, Ontario.


bissett is known for his use of a unique orthography and incorporating visual elements in his printed poetry, and his performance of "concrete sound" poetry, sound effects, chanting, barefoot dancing and playing a maraca during his poetry readings. He is often associated with the Shamanistic in literature. He has also had large exhibits of his paintings and made audio recordings on vinyl, cassette tape and CD. He was the lyricist and vocalist in the Ontario band, Luddites, and before that he collaborated with experimental rock group The Mandan Massacre. His work typically ranges from the mystical to the mundane, incorporating humour, a sense of wonder and sentimentality, and political commentary.

Allmusic: "Bill Bissett can roughly be considered the Canadian equivalent to Allen Ginsberg, an oracular poet who found a home among the psychedelic vanguard of the late '60s with an incantatory live blend of performance art and avant-garde rock. Bissett, though, is an even more abstruse scribe who deconstructs language by stripping away conventional syntactical considerations. It is willfully difficult but frequently rewarding as a reading experience because it is such visual work." [6]


bissett's honors include the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award and the BC Book Prizes' Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.[1]

In 2006, Nightwood Editions published radiant danse uv being (Jeff Pew & Stephen Roxborough, eds.), a poetic tribute to bissett with contributions from more than 80 writers, including Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen, Lorna Crozier, Patrick Lane, Steve McCaffery, P.K. Page, and Darren Wershler-Henry.

in popular cultureEdit

Heart of a Poet - bill bissett

Heart of a Poet - bill bissett

Jack Kerouac named bissett a "great poet" in a 1968 interview with Ted Berrigan in The Paris Review:

Kerouac: You know who’s a great poet? I know who the great poets are.
Interviewer: Who?
Kerouac: Let’s see, is it ... William Bissett of Vancouver. An Indian boy. Bill Bissett, or Bissonnette.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about Jack Kerouac.
Kerouac: He’s not better than Bill Bissett, but he’s very original.[7]

In 2006 bissett was featured in an episode of the TV documentary series Heart of a Poet, produced by Canadian filmmaker Maureen Judge.[8]



  • we sleep inside each othr all. Toronto: Ganglia, 1965.
  • fires in th tempul OR th jinx shipn othr trips. Very Stone House / blewointmentpress, 1966.
  • the circus in the boy's eye (with Jim Brown). Very Stone House, 1966.
  • Th gossamer bed pan. blewointmentpress, 1967.
  • lebanon voices. Weed / flower press, 1967.
  • wher is miss florence riddle?. luv press, 1967; blewointmentpress, 1973.
  • Of the land / divine service: poems. weed/flower press, 1968.
  • sunday work (?). blweointmentpress, 1969.
  • lost angel mining Company. blewointmentpress, 1969.
  • awake in th red desert. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1969.
  • tuff shit [love pomes]. Bandit / Black Moss Press, 1970.
  • dragon fly. weed/flower press, 1971.
  • nobody owns th earth. Toronto: Anansi, 1971.
  • air 6. air, 1971.
  • words in th fire. blewointmentpress, 1972.
  • polar bear hunt. blewointmentpress, 1972.
  • the high green hill. blewointmentpress, 1972.
  • pomes for yoshi. blewointmentpress, 1972; Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1977.
  • RUSH what fukan there. blewointmentpress, 1972.
  • four parts sand (by Earle Birney, bill bissett, Judith Copithorne, & Andy Suknaski). Oberon, 1972.
  • air 10-11-12. air, 1972.
  • vancouvr mainland ice n cold storage. UK: Writers Forum, 1973, 1999.
  • Pass th food release thspirit book. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1973.
  • Th first sufi line. blewointmentpress, 1973.
  • space travl. air, 1974.
  • drawings. blewointmentpress, 1974.
  • what. blewointmentpress, 1974.
  • MEDICINE my mouth's on fire. Oberon, 1974.
  • living with the vishyun. new star books, 1974.
  • venus. blewointmentpress, 1975.
  • stardust. blewointmentpress, 1975.
  • image being. blewointmentpress, 1975.
  • plutonium missing. Intermedia, 1976.
  • An illusyun 2 macbeth. Black Moss, 1976.
  • th wind up tongue. blewointmentpress, 1976.
  • sailor. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1978, 1982.
  • the first snow. blewointmentpress, 1979.
  • sa n th monkey. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1980.
  • BEYOND EVN FAITHFUL LEGENDS. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1980.
  • ready 4 framing. blewointmentpress, 1981.
  • sa n th crystal ball. blewointmentpress, 1981.
  • soul arroW. blewointmentpress, 1981.
  • northern birds in color. blewointmentpress, 1981.
  • seagull on yonge street. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1983.
  • write me an adventure. gronk, 1983.
  • tires in th tempul. Vancouver Art Gallery, 1984.
  • canada gees mate for life. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1985.
  • past eroticism. gronk, 1986.
  • ANIMAL UPROAR. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1987.
  • what we have. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1988.
  • rezoning. Vancouver Art Gallery, 1988.
  • cum this way. UK: P. Claire, 1990.
  • hard 2 beleev. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1990.
  • inkorrect thots. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1992, 1994.
  • th last photo uv th human soul. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1993.
  • th influenza uv logik. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1995.
  • loving without being vulnrabul. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1997.
  • ecstacies uv apricots. London: Writers Forum, 1997.
  • B leev abul char ak trs. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2000.
  • lunaria. granary books, 2001.
  • peter among th towring boxes. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2002.
  • narrativ enigma. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2004.
  • northern wild roses. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2005.
  • deth interrupts th dansing (with Pete Dako). Red Deer Press, 2006.
  • ths is erth, thees ar peopul. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2008.
  • griddle talk: a yeer uv bill n carol dewing brunch (with Carol Malyon). Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2008.
  • sublingual. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2009.
  • time. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2010.
  • novel. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2011.


  • th last blewointment antholojee (2 volumes), Nightwood Editions, 1987.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the offishul web site 4 bill bissett.[9]

audio / video Edit

Bill bissett

Bill bissett

Bill Bissett Chant

Bill Bissett Chant

Bill bissett Sound Poem at Artword Artbar, Hamilton October 18 2009

Bill bissett Sound Poem at Artword Artbar, Hamilton October 18 2009

Bill bissett-0

Bill bissett-0

Bill bissett, Poetry Reading, January 20, 2012

Bill bissett, Poetry Reading, January 20, 2012

  • bill bissett reading his poetry (cassette). Toronto: Erindale College, 1963.
  • sonic horses (cassette). Toronto: Underwhich Editions, 1984.
  • carnivocal (CD). Red Deer, AB: Red Deer Press, 1999.
  • rainbow mewsik (CD). Calgary, AB: Red Deer Press, 2001.
  • Heart of a Poet: bill bissett (DVD). Makin' Movies, 2013.[8]

see alsoEdit


  • David, Jack. (1977). "Visual Poetry in Canada: Birney, Bissett, and bp." Studies in Canadian Literature vol. 2, 252-66.
  • Early, Len. (1976). "Bill Bissett: Poetics, Politics & Vision." Essays on Canadian Writing vol. 4, 4-24.
  • Enright, Robert. (1997). "Composition by feeled the visual art of bill bissett." Capilano Review series 2 no. 23, 105-7.
  • Maylon, Carol. (1997). "we ar always on th 401: the use of fiction in bissett's poems." Capilano Review series 2 vol. 23, 113-6.
  • Pew, Jeff, and Roxborough, Stephen (editors). (2006). radiant danse uv being: A Poetic Portrait of bill bissett. Nightwood Editions. ISBN 0-88971-210-7
  • Precosky, Don. (1990). "Bill Bissett: Controversies and definitions." Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews vol. 27, 15-29.
  • Precosky, Don. (1994). "Self selected/selected self: bill bissett's Beyond Even Faithful Legends." Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews vol. 34, 57-78.
  • Twigg, Allan. "bissett, bill" on BC Bookworld.
  • Wershler-Henry, Darren. (1997). "Vertical excess: what fuckan theory and bill bissett's concrete poetics." Capilano Review series 2 no. 23, 117-24.


  1. 1.0 1.1 bill bissett b. 1939, Poetry Foundation. Web, Mar. 14, 2015.
  2. VersFest, March 24 - 30 Mars, 2015. Web, Mar. 14, 2015.
  3. People / bill bissett, Ruins in Progress: Vancouver art in the sixties]. Web, Mar. 15, 2015.
  4. "bissett, bill. "CanLit Poets: bill bissett,, Canadian Literature, 21 Apr. 2010. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Poetic Enigma: The daring eccesntricity of bill bissett," Daily Xtra, June 8, 2005. Web, Mar. 4, 2019.
  6. awake in th red desert, AMG Allmusic Guide,, Web, Jun. 2, 2012.
  7. Jack Kerouac, The Art of Fiction No. 41, Paris Review 43 (Summer 1968). Web, Mar. 28, 2017.
  8. 8.0 8.1 heart of a Poet: Bill Bissett, Web, Mar. 4, 2019.
  9. bill bissett publishing narrativ cv, offishul web site 4 bill bissett. Web, May 4, 2014.

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