Tuesday, June 23, 2009
bpNichol edits a poem and doesn't slip on a banana
About 25 years ago -- for two years -- I studied creative writing with bpNichol at York University. Sometime during the summer after graduation, he invited me to his home. He gave me a tour of his book collections, showed me some animated vispo on his Apple II that he was working on (which became First Screenings), his Mickey Mouse phone, some LPs (I remember Berio's Sinfonia), some notebooks, and his office, and then we went to a nearby Italian cafe for ice cream. He'd asked me to his house because he wanted to publish some of my work for his grOnk series. I, of course, was excited out of my mind. He selected a piece "Lunguage: a short history of breath." Perhaps it wasn't a surprise: the piece was some visual poetry where the lungs are alternately a lower case h and an upper case H. bp died before he was able to publish the piece. I later published it with my serif of nottingham editions, and made a video poem of it. See here.
The scanned poem above is a poem (printed on my trusty Atari) that I wrote sometime in the early 80s. The edits are bp's. I have, somewhere, several portfolios that I sumitted to bp with his edits and comments. He was a great editor/teacher. I remember in class, he kept pushing me to go further, to discover the implications of what I was exploring, to read. He wouldn't let me rest on the (self-bestowed) laurels that I wanted to rest on. He did, however, convey a sense that he enjoyed working with the material that I was working with, even if he didn't especially like my poem. He conveyed an excitement about what could be done. He was like a combination coach and director.