The Complete Works: A Film Screening and Celebration of bpNichol

September 23, 2015 | Winona

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Please join us for the North American premiere of The Complete Works, an experimental cinematic ode to bpNichol, on Thursday September 24, 7:00-8:15 p.m., at Toronto Reference Library.

The Complete Works (film, 2014) trailer

Fifteen years in the making, The Complete Works, by filmmaker Justin Stephenson, is a welcome tribute to the acclaimed and beloved poet bpNichol, and a fantastic introduction for those who have yet to discover him. This event will feature a screening of the film, along with a visual display of bpNichol's work, and will conclude with a Q&A period.

BpNichol photo credit Linda Charyk RosenfeldPhoto of bpNichol by Linday Charyk Rosenfeld

bpNichol (Barrie Phillip Nichol, 1944-1988) was one of Canada's leading experimental writers. He was an inventive force who blurred the boundaries between genres and played joyfully with textual strategies, techniques, and processes. His inspiring range of groundbreaking works include poetry, stories, essays, operas, musicals, comic books, collage, computer poems, spoken word, and television.

The Complete Works by bpNichol"The Complete Works" (1968)

In the mid-1960s, bpNichol became known for his concrete poetry. In 1970 he won the Governor General's Award for four small volumes: Beach Head, a collection of lyric poems; Still Water, a box of poems on cards; The True Eventual Story of Billy the Kid, an anti-heroic re-telling of the Billy the Kid legend; and The Cosmic Chef, (PDF) a boxed anthology of Canadian concrete poems that he edited.

Blues by bpNichol"Blues" (1968)

Emblems bpNichol
"Emblems" (1985), published in Zygal: A Book of Mysteries and Translations

His best-known published work is The Martyrology, a life-long poem begun in 1967 that came to encompass 9 books in 6 volumes and remained unfinished at the time of his death.

The Martyrology Books 1 & 2 The Martyrology Books 3 & 4 The Martyrology Book 5
The Martyrology Book 6 The Martyrology Book(s) 7 & The Martyrology Book 9

The Martyrology Books 1-9 (1972-1992)

His early, convention-shattering work in sound poetry was documented in Michael Ondaatje's short 1970 film Sons of Captain Poetry. (online version)


"Pome Poem" (1972) | Hear more here.

He believed in the power of collaboration and constantly worked with other artists, including in the sound poetry group The Four Horsemen with Rafael Barreto-River, Paul Dutton, and Steve McCaffery.


The Four Horsemen in Ron Mann's film Poetry in Motion (1982)

Some of you may be familiar with bpNichol's work from the children's television show Fraggle Rock.


"Muck and Goo" (1983) from Fraggle Rock, music by Phil Balsam, lyrics by Dennis Lee and bpNichol

In 1983/84, he used an Apple computer and programming language to create a series of kinetic computer poems. 


"First Screening" (1984) (more about this computer poem here)

In 1994, a Toronto street was named in his honour. bpNichol Lane is just behind Coach House Books, one of his publishers, in Toronto's Annex neighbourhod.

bpNichol Lane

An eight-line poem is set in concrete in the lane: "A / LAKE / A / LINE / A / LONE".

A / LAKE / A / LINE / A / LONE
 This poem also appears in the book An H in the Heart: A Reader.

bpNichol Lane is not far from the Toronto Reference Library and would be a perfect destination to check out after you've been to the program The Complete Works: A Film Screening and Celebration of bpNichol on Thursday. Hope to see you there!


Addendum: On September 24th the new Digital Archive was relaunched and is now up and running. Browse thousands of digitized pages by bpNichol and download his books in PDF - for free!