News and Reviews

bill bissett Comes to Town

Posted Dec 9, 2015 by Paul Strickland

The poetry reading at the Twisted Cork banquet hall at the end of November tested the outer boundaries of appreciation of the poetic art. Held at the Twisted Cork in Prince George on October 23rd, 2015 the event drew about 65 people.

The night started with Darcy Taylor, emcee, introducing Darlene McIntosh, an elder from the Lheidli T’enneh First Nations band who gave the invocation in Native tradition.

The first reader, Adrienne Fitzpatrick’s piece was a description of an afternoon with the First Nations Nak’azdli Whu’ten Band.

She was followed by Rob Budde, professor of UNBC’s creative writing program and author of eight published books. He read from "Testes," the working title for his book about masculinity. He explained that, "It's an exploration of that software."

Budde also read from "Change Room," and "What Men Really Want," which he said is "part sarcasm, part truth, part psychoanalysis, and part sad." It takes up the issue of men wanting "room to spread out on buses." He said it explores "irony best left to those who know how to use it without misunderstandings." In addition, he dealt with the effects of "Viagra with beer" and the issue of "counting publications by gender."

Budde's key poem was "The Wreck," based loosely on beatnik Allen Ginsberg's 1956 poem, "Supermarket in California." The poet shares his impressions from a recent visit to the supermarket, and the impact of "knowing the preservatives are doing us no good."

Besides emceeing, Darcy Taylor read from her own poems viewed as "bridges between all of us." One was "Longing, Location, Logic, Lapse, and Legend." She referred to internal "dangerous pressure, spiritual kiln fire." Concerning the concept of logic, she said she was "alarmed at the worn-out words."

Janet Rogers, UNBC writer in residence, read from her work, "Heading out to Nass Valley on 16, I find the road speaks to me." She said Canadian poet Pauline Johnson was an inspiration to her. Roger’s poem, "Three-Day Road" contained strong phrases and lines like " . . . just struggling against the wind," ". . . home for the brave," "the political is the ironical," "Is this where the arrows get broken? . . . " and "America ca ca." Rogers then read the Pauline Johnson poem, "East Wood,” which Rogers said, helps her understand river language.

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Then came the star of the show, bill bissett. Taylor introduced him as a significant national poet who is considered “the grandfather of sound poetry and an incredible visual artist."

"I turned to the writing of poetry for my soul and my life," bissett said. In his first reading, he demonstrated a commanding deep resonance, as of a traditional storyteller inspiring and encouraging his band. " . . . I have seen the river flowing through us . . in the pouring rain . . . "

"Can we transcend the reptilian foe?" he asked.

Bissett denounced the cutbacks and controls imposed by the recent Harper government, especially its decision to fire 27 RCMP officers from their positions on Parliament hill in the months just before the shootings occurred. "Stephen Harper, We got rid of him!" bissett exclaimed with loud resonance.

The audience was silent as he continued reading. "In this mystical garden of words/are toxic people." Referring to his poem, "y th longatudinal naytur uv our jellee roll," from his 'Hungree Throat' collection, he said, "We are drowning in the demonstrative/ .  .  . Well th use uv unmodified demonstrativs is leeding 2/ incoherens in the public square .  . . . "

His 'sout refuge in an abandoned car" drew an especially favourable audience response, recalling unfriendliness to hitch-hikers " . . . in wa wa n thn in Kenora . . ."

"Fever Thoughts in the Arctic," with powerful imagery called to mind by phrases like " . . . over the purple ice mountain . . . ,"

When bissett finished reading, the audience offered an appreciable and prolonged applause. And although he was suffering from the flu and a cold, bissett spent another hour answering questions from admiring students, fans and faculty from CNC and UNBC.

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Reviewer Bio:

Paul, in his 28 years as a full-time journalist and 6.5 years as a free lance journalist, Paul has worked for newspapers in Nevada, Medicine Hat and Prince George. Besides being an investigative reporter, he is a poet, a short story writer and an essayist. He presently resides in Prince George and haunts all the literary scenes that appear in town.