northern wild roses/deth interrupts th dansing


160 pages
ISBN 0-88922-532-X
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Thomas M.F. Gerry

Thomas M.F. Gerry is chair of the English Department at Laurentian
University and the editor of Arachne, Laurentian University’s
bilingual interdisciplinary journal of language and literature.


bissett is almost 70, but his poems retain their childlike enthusiasm,
innocence, and energy. And while the poet has lived mostly in Vancouver,
his poetry evokes the soul-stirring effects of the great East Coast
writers, such as Emerson, Thoreau, Roberts, Carman, and, in its depth if
not breadth, Whitman.

With words and drawings bissett creates what he calls “textual
vishyun.” Text throughout the book appears in a regular
computer-generated font, a departure from the good old days when it was
produced by typewriter keys and also in hand-drawn lettering. The
continuum from machine to handwriting extends to images and to
decorative patterns. One purpose of this multi-faceted presentation is
to comment on the nature of text itself. bissett notes “the taktilitee
/ uv th text / its margins / carvd in our / brains minds,” and asks,
“is it enscribing yu / uplifting yu moving yu / enkripting yu /
enrapturing yu / imprinting yu th / taming uv th text / th candour uv th
text / its ardour / armour amour.” Just as the spelling moves in and
out of focus, so do the text’s meanings, and so does the reader.

“What’s the point?” is not the sort of question free-spirited,
open-minded, art-loving readers would ask. You either get it or you
don’t, laugh joyfully or smile perplexedly, scornfully, even,
recalling with approval the Tory MP who complained about wasting tax
money on Canada Council grants for the likes of bill bissett.
Surprisingly, then, bissett does approach an explanation in “th fog
peopul.” These folk “liv on top uv th highest / mountins” because
“they love fog sew much. … th fog peopul eschew vizual klaritee they
feel / vizual klaritee leeds 2 konfuseyun n arrogans / living in a fog
they beleev creates humilitee multi / plisitee understanding respect
love uv diffrens.”

You have to read and look carefully at this book. Entering this fog you
will see things—or not—in a whole different way.


bissett, bill., “northern wild roses/deth interrupts th dansing,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 14, 2024,