Intro for brethfest
Presented at Pratt Institute, The Player’s Club and The Poet’s House,
New York, Nov. 2019.
34 years ago, about to get on my first international stage —
and this is what bill sd to me: darling, nothing exists except the letters, the words the fiery spaces. feel the letters like sparks flying off the page into your chest through your mouth.
feel the weight of the letters like fiery angels blessing you; like dancing stars, clusters, galaxies caress each syllable with your lips yr mouth yr breath as they slide one into the other,
yr heart merging with the letters —
because that’s all there is,
is those letters, these words, this language –
th stroke in the sound
th lettr in the image
th image in the lettr
And with that, and his 80 + books, interviews albums, cd’s, paintings and performances,
“xploding” structures of power, authority, logic systems
taught me how language, the most powerful tool for transformation and change
between “th improper” inappropriate (impropriotous, riotous) —
as a painter, performer, film critic, shaman, concrete, sound, language and lyrical poet straddling a French, Dutch and Scot heritage, between Britain and and America, the west coast, centralia, the “red desert” “lunaria” (his birth planet), mattawa and “venusland” — bill bissett reminds us all we are “woke” in the red desert of the real, clap clap clap clap we are the bright eyes we are the night skies. And with an oeuvre of pulsional incidents, instability, nomadicism, monadicism, diasporic spells, meaning travels unravels from place to plaise, splayed out in hyperspatial interplays / displacing textual and acoustic sites of discrimination and domination –
where his mouth is literally “on fire” —
showing us how language; “modes nodes odes / uv intracksyun / refraction, deflection
contain[s] th alpha / bet uv our being” –
is an asylum – schizophonetically housing
all the “sublingual” “mirakuls” “vishyuns”, mythistories, mysteries” of his “wind up tongue” n “hungree throat,” threading scenarios, lunarias (arias of lunacy)
interrogating a range of difference, appliance, appearance
that inform the discursive and political practices of racial and cultural hierarchization.
Whether it’s his “dirtee konkreet” vispo collaborations with Jim Andrews,
cd’s with Steve Dako, the Mandan Massacre the Luddites, Honey Novack, or with Hart Braudy in their worldwide, “Concrete is Porous Fest” or The Chemical Brothers on their Grammy Award winning album, bissett exposes for us a rapturous palace, “kastl” marked by “row[s] uv letters rows uv beautiful letters with the pickshurs inside them “nite lyric charmrs” where “the narrative line inhabited by raging kreetshurs”.
And he is “building houses uv abandond shells”, with “tapestreed lobees”, “transitive verb konstructs”
And this is the blewprint. an architecture, an aching texture of insignias, that
i now live in — this languescape of syncretistic intersections,
of “narrative enigma”, oral aisles, pools, spools, polls, re-orienting us
thru briks masonree word okal oral vocal objects puzzul pome opaque n or direct sound”,
interrogating “klass ekonomik strucksyurs…oligarkik limits n tyraneez”;
maps, territories, palimpsestic his/herstoricities, blayzing kaskading “unprediktabiliteez”,
highlighting language’s transformational capacities —
& 34 yrs later i continue to live with him inside
this grammar of “unmapabul places”, of all that is “trembuling”, luxurious and “xcrushiating”
raging and magical.
And with that –
and the help of Pratt University, Dept. of Humanities and Media Studies, The School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Pratt Institute Libraries, Book Pub and The Academic Senate, The New York Society of General Semantics and Poet’s House, The Niagara Artist Centre, the Tarragon Theatre, Gregory Betts, Robert Kasher, Marc Glassman, Marc Côté, Paolo Riviera and Lance Strate it is my enormous pleasure to introduce —- the métis boy Jack Kerouac called “the most important poet of his generation”, who Margaret Atwood calls her “astral twin,” author of over 80 collections of poetry, publisher of blewointment press, Honorary Doctoral beneficiary, performer of over 5000 readings worldwide, subject of numerous international award winning documentaries, television specials, George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Recipient for his outstanding contributions to literature, and most recently the author of the largest collection of his work to date —
breth: th treez uv lunaria
my hero, my teacher, “my tall husband”, our muse,
with your eyes of secrets, handshakes, molecular dissolve
rapturous n raging your eyes of the glak river grocking through ambrosial surfaces
karibu dreems crimson dawn your eyes of ashes
strewn in the pacific coastal glistening in the night skies
with your eyes of flan and towering boxes, church street timothees, this aint th
your eyes of seagulls on yonge street and inkcorrekt thots
glistening planes, n hungree throat, fingers to the chin ancient
eyes of torments tremors tangos margins n infiniteez, taktilities, rubee eyes of gold mountains n summer lagoons, of hunee love n xcelsiorrr drinkable lava dancing languor of fervors flavors
your eyes of lunaria, yr mamas, n mattawa, j n m ben, bertrand mister seagull
sumtimes so full of needles n uproar yr eyes inside the letters in the image in the sound; of pools spools, parks, scars n the endless raging paper play
with your eyes of sutured corneas coronas succulent milking
yr eyes of utopias dystopias n elastic rain pillowing leevs n rippled conshertoes
of dancing nouns garlands
yr eyes eyez eyez eyez sand in their veins
filled with flowers
luddites workman arts 100 mile house
inscribing an intra-subjective matrix of differential locations, allocations,
illicit loquations, colloquations; constellations of relation, elation, s’erration,
offering ways to combat all the “incorrect thots”, all that is “hard to beleev”, the “kaskading
perplexities” of “mr n ms understanding”.
his words explode like (mountains uv creem), burst forth as a textual nexus of dissembling,
desire / masques, sparks, scars, masks
And through a mounting insistence, urges the listener to acknowledge the relation between dominant discursive practices, social and political lines of power and how this renegotiation of language and sound becomes a powerful tool for socio-political and chan
2 “Kontest Carnage” (Geist. Vol.12, No.50, p.78) bissett blurs the boundary between Poem, Movie Review, Political Treatise and Horror Story.
Adeena Karasick is a poet, performer, cultural theorist and media artist and the author of ten books of poetry and poetics. Her Kabbalistically inflected, urban, Jewish feminist mashups have been described as “electricity in language” (Nicole Brossard), “proto-ecstatic jet-propulsive word torsion” (George Quasha), noted for their “cross-fertilization of punning and knowing, theatre and theory” (Charles Bernstein) “a twined virtuosity of mind and ear which leaves the reader deliciously lost in Karasick’s signature ‘syllabic labyrinth’” (Craig Dworkin); “one long dithyramb of desire, a seven-veiled dance of seduction that celebrates the tangles, convolutions, and ecstacies of unbridled sexuality… demonstrating how desire flows through language, an unstoppable flood of allusion (both literary and pop-cultural), word-play, and extravagant and outrageous sound-work.” (Mark Scroggins). Most recently is Checking In (Talonbooks, 2018) and Salomé: Woman of Valor (University of Padova Press, Italy, 2017), the libretto for her Spoken Word opera co-created with Grammy award winning composer, Sir Frank London. She teaches Literature and Critical Theory for the Humanities and Media Studies Dept. at Pratt Institute, is Poetry Editor for Explorations in Media Ecology, 2018 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Award recipient and winner of the 2016 Voce Donna Italia award for her contributions to feminist thinking and 2018 winner of the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. The “Adeena Karasick Archive” is established at Special Collections, Simon Fraser University.
a piping hot bowl of chills
friendo-ship pome 4 bill bissett on his 80th brethday
When you fed me those first chills, I flubbed:
what fukan lunch?
more of a pome bespoken in a clarity of charities––
three-hundred flowers, dancing Lunarian,
potted in the early early where the glaze flicks praise
through patio doors into everydayness,
misting toward pouched-in hat-heads and cloudy,
stuffed-about 8-tracks in pip-pip-pip paintings
who pant hyperspeed through so many
spines––the new breth, oohing and ahhing
in pastel and piccolo, where riverside vertebrates
swoon in so many woos of wistful wishes,
feeding forth fluxed-up feet with
little tiny itty bitty
no tongue, all toes, all cartilage––melting;
over fireside crucibles, rivering the recipe
with green, maybe aquamarine, margarine,
and oh! There you go––
stirring red hot heat-things
into the chills
into the chills
whirring weened clobber-snares
into the chills
–––that’s so fucking hype!
coring wing-ding bot ranch
into the chills
blobbing other bund fun-havers
into the chills
–––oh dang, lmao!
[squelching] spices, face-first, into bowled love,
knighting rung after rung with another
set of lungs, pumping out jojoba oil
to praise the palms of psalm bombers,
of taste and of bud, fluttering about for future therapies
in warm hug embrace:––a shoe clack
stomping riverside, splaying pavement where
College becomes Carlton becomes dithyrambs
of burnt banknotes, hummed voluminous
for sweet November in the sizzle-blown mulch of
billions of tons of love letters sent to and fro
Mattawa, Uhauling itself
into echoes of villages and rumours of
winter, meowing into the mouth of what?
Uh, hmmmm, henlo, friendo!––
a zonking reticular excellence; or,
just another way of
licking n linging sum langue
into the chills.
MLA Chernoff (@citation_bb) is a non-binary Jewish pome machine, a “postmodern neomarxist,” and somehow a PhD candidate at The Neoliberal University of York University. Their first collection of pomes, delet this, was released by Bad Books in 2018. Their second collection, TERSE THIRSTY, is now available through Gap Riot Press. Have a nice day and please stay hydrated.
ther is nothing 2 abandon
I am happy to be here tonight to say a few words in homage to my lunarian friend, bill bissett.
The other day someone asked me what it was that first drew me to bill’s poetry. This is both an easy and a hard question to answer.
It would be easy and accurate to say that I was impressed with his experiments in concrete and sound poetry, along with the wildness of his subject matter, his syntax, grammar, spelling, and of the blewointment mimeographed publications.
However, there is something more, something that transcends all of this that truly attracted me.
bill wrote, “it’s hard 2 separate biographee from bibliographee,” and I’m reminded of lines by another great poet who turned 80 this year, Ed Sanders who wrote in “The Struggle”
“…& I know what Ted means by raging and what drives Allen onward
rage and make mudras
rage and sing twang
rage and sing shriek
the warbles of antique Persian throats
are saved on the spidery tapes of ’ternity…”
It has to do with permission. By his example, bill gives me permission to be myself, to live my truth—to EXPRESS my truth in whatever form that takes. Perhaps it’s the beat spirit, what Jack Kerouac termed “sympathetic,” and bill calls “ecstatic union.”
bill writes, “th maritimes ar veree beautiful th centr is veree beautiful praireez veree beautiful coastal area veree beautiful eye love going 2 all uv them n evreewher is th centr uv evreewher n not”
What I most love about bill is that he’s bill: 100% true to himself. His message of hope is to “forget living a normal life.” He asks of himself, and by extention all of us: “are you dreaming?”
Steve Clay November 21, 2019 Poets House
New York City
Steve Clay is the publisher of Granary Books, as well as an editor, curator, and archivist specializing in literature and art of the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. He is the author or editor of several volumes including Intermedia, Fluxus, and the Something Else Press: Selected Writings by Dick Higgins with Ken Friedman, Threads Talk Series with Kyle Schlesinger, A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections about the Book & Writing with Jerome Rothenberg and A Secret Location on the Lower East Side: Adventures in Writing 1960-1980, with Rodney Phillips. He lives in New York City and Ancramdale, NY.
by Lance Strate
After studying general semantics with Alfred Korzybski, William S. Burroughs famously declared that, “language is a virus from outer space”! The remedy for a virus is a vaccine, and we are fortunate indeed that bill bissett has provided us with the means to counter what bill burroughs diagnosed. The poetry of bissett serves as a powerful inoculation against language’s numbing and dumbing effects, activating and invigorating the immune system of the bicameral mind. Much like a form of meditative practice or mystical incantation, bill bissett’s mutating morphemes and phenomenal phonemes open wide the doors of perception and the gates of cognition needed to battle the quotidian fever. His medium is his message, the creation through performance and printed page of anti-environ-mental antibodies that attack the expected and expectorated reality that is routinely coughed up by everyday patterns of speech and writing, in favor of new forms of consciousness and awareness and experience and meaning. Taken aurally or intravisually, as drops administered to ear or eye, bissett’s poetry can cure the common coldness of contemporary composition, the rabid spread of infectious formulas and clichés, and the epidemic of mundane and monotonous modes of expression. If Burroughs were alive today, he would most certainly advise us that a dose of bill bissett is the best way to self-medicate against the symptoms and disease of any sublingual alien ailments that are waging war upon our world and our verbal wellbeing.
Lance Strate is Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University, and author of seven books, including the poetry collection, Thunder at Darwin Station.
And, at last, so we can hear his own self-description, a short interview with Bill Bissett, from a few years ago
All the artwork in this article is by bill bissett