Interview with a Canadian Icon: bill bissett in 2016

  • Maidie Hilmo University of Victoria


A Canadian pioneer in sound poetry and concrete poetry, bill bissett hardly needs an introduction. His writing awards, honorary degrees, list of readings, not to mention his innumerable publications over the decades are too long to mention here. He is a consummate performer of his poetry in every kind of venue. What is unique about this interview is that he recorded his answers on his iPad using his own phonetic spelling. This preserves the poetic rhythms of his speech and encourages the reader to slow down and to sound out his words, creating another kind of performance. 

Topics covered concern the source of his poetry, his place as a forerunner in concrete and sound poetry, his innovative practice of breaking down language into its phonetic components, his use of a rattle and ritual sounds, his thoughts on the creative possibilities of computer technologies, his drawings in relation to his poetry, the role humour plays in his writing and art, his recent book and new paintings, and his philosophy about art and life.

Author Biography

Maidie Hilmo, University of Victoria
I am currently an affiliate at the University of Victoria. Before retiring, I was an instructor in English and creative writing at Northern Lights College. My publications are mostly on medieval manuscripts, but also on Canadian art and literature (including an earlier interview with bill bissett in 1986). Some of these can be accessed at