The eight-line poem is located in the Annex behind Coach House Books, a reputable indie publisher in Toronto. bpNichol (1944-1988) was a Canadian poet widely known for his concrete poetry, but his body of work also includes novels, short fiction, children’s books, musical scores, comic book art, collage/assemblage, and computer text.
bpNichol, illustration from Snore Comics Number Two
In bpNichol’s poetry, one finds
a long engagement with the typewriter and its unique ability to mechanically reproduce letters an exact distance apart; in other words, the grid-like qualities of typewritten text allowed him to create meaning semantically and visually, horizontally and vertically.
bpNichol, Aleph Unit Opened (from exhibit catalog DOORS: To Oz & Other Landscapes, 1979)
bpNichol (Barrie Phillip Nichol) was born September 30, 1944 in Vancouver, British Columbia. His writing is, by definition, engaged with what he called “borderblur”: in his lifetime he wrote (somewhere between) poetry, novels, short fiction, children’s books, musical scores, comic book art, collage/assemblage, and computer texts.
“Icharrus winging up Simon the magician from Judea high in a tree, everyone reaching for the sun
great towers of stone built by the Aztecs, tearing their hearts out to offer them, wet and beating”
-bpNichol, from “Translating Translating Apollinaire” (original version)
“i cannot hear anymore
reason remains unreachable sullen
would i never gave in, never gave up, praying simply, in my own name to Him each morning at Galilee
i cannot invoke another name
fear rises open mouthed
Jesu! understand, deafness erases any hope i gained, ‘here’ is nowhere around
the remaining essential emotions, essential values, everything, really, your own nullity exchanged, rise eastward against crosses hammered in new ground, for our rage, the hate every son uncovers.
new grief rends each awareness, the tautologies open wide, eager reason surprising our false sympathies, taunts our numbed eardrums, bullies us
i lie, terrified by your thorned head effecting a zone that evil cannot slip thru entering a region interior no grace that’ll hold ethereal i rise hungry expectant as Rafael told someone "ordinary usage teaches them only one fact - FEAR EATS REASON”
to hear everything! my waiting eardrums tremble anew, nameless delicate breath explodes, a terrible inspiration now grips"
-bpNichol, from “Translating Translating Apollonaire (acrostic translation)
(for the entirety of both poems as well as other translations, please look here) (via)
After he had been writing for a while he became aware of how many times he used the word ‘fingers’, the fact of them, the image of them, in his poems. All that talk of reaching and touching, all those barriers his fingers seemed to encounter between him and some imagined other. The metaphors. The similies. The symbolisms. And then one day he realized that of course he was always staring at his hand when he wrote, was always watching the pen as it moved along, gripped by his fingers, his fingers, floating there in front of his eyes just above the words, above that single white sheet, just above these words i’m writing now, his fingers between him and all that, like another person, a third person, when all along you thot it was just the two of you talking and he suddenly realized it was the three of them, handing it on from one to the other, his hand translating itself, his words slipping thru his fingers into the written world. You.