Canada Gees Mate for Life


128 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-88922-232-0






Reviewed by Michael Williamson

Michael Williamson was Reference Librarian at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa.


I remember reviewing Nobody owns the earth by bill bissett in 1974 and thinking that it was a terrific collection because no one else writes like that and so many of the poems were funny and mystical and clever. Twelve years later, the same impression holds, only Canada Gees Mate for Life is a more generous collection (at 128 pages) and it is also more relevant — particularly in these stark and unlovely times in which we find ourselves. The sheer creative freedom of this collection is simply delightful. All sorts of topics are addressed: the contras in Nicaragua, Macdonald’s, Vancouver City Council meetings, famine in Africa, terrorism, Mozart, grace maccarthee, love, inner peace, places everywhere, and, wonder of wonders, what happened “whn prime ministr diefenbaker went”:

into spirit

i was sitting in restaurant up north

looking out at th meadow th sheep

n ponees

i herd th radio say


his bodee wud tour canada in

a train so peopul n him cud

see each othr for th last


th train went from ontario

wher it startid thru manitoba

to saskatchewan wher it


yet another view

uv geogmaphee

Every poem has Mr. bissett’s trademark diction and his phonetic spelling, and these characteristics throw a curious camouflage over the poem’s meaning and tone: what may seem like a trivial or playful poem suddenly becomes moral, serious, and profound — but with no cynicism. This is what makes Mr. bissett’s work so powerful and so necessary — its innocence and sanity and playfulness and overall gentleness of spirit. This is a great collection, a breath of fresh air (and with lots of good drawings, too!). Highly recommended and nicely produced by Talonbooks.


bissett, bill, “Canada Gees Mate for Life,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 24, 2024,