Bissett was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He attended Dalhousie University (1956) and the University of British Columbia (1963–1965). bissett dropped out of both universities because of an overriding desire to live as a free agent, writer and painter unencumbered by any academic constraints. He did complete course requirements for his two majors in English and Philosophy. He moved to Vancouver, British Columbia in 1958. In 1962, he started blewointment magazine. He later launched blewointmentpress, which has published volumes by Cathy Ford, Maxine Gadd, Michael Coutts, Hart Broudy, Rosemary Hollingshead, Beth Jankola, Carolyn Zonailo, bpNichol, Ken West, Lionel Kearns and D. A. Levy. In 1983, he sold blewointment press to focus on his own writing and visual art; financial hardship resulting from the bissett Affair has been cited as another reason that he sold the press.
The bissett Affair, 1977-1978
In 1977, Bob Wenman and a group of other Conservative Members of Parliament objected to the funding of some Canadian poets, bill bissett in particular, by the Canadian Council for the Arts. Wenman and others objected to bissett's poetry on moral grounds; Wenman, when speaking to Jean Chrétien (then a Minister of Finance), described bissett's work as "disgusting and pornographic."
While in Parliament, Wenman requested that bissett's literary work be read out and be put on record. Wenman's request was denied by the Speaker, however, on grounds of that it was not relevant.
After Wenman's accusations in 1977, and until Juney 1978, bissett received no funding from Canadian Council grants. However, there is no clear indication that Wenman's allegations were the cause of this lack of funding. Indeed, according to Frank Davey, a Canadian poet and scholar, by as early as 1974, bissett had been "ejected from cross-Canada trains, evicted by countless landlords, beaten, harassed by police, and arrested and sentenced to prison."
He is known for his use of a unique orthography and incorporating visual elements in his printed poetry, and his performance of "concrete sound" poetry, sound effects, chanting, barefoot dancing and playing a maraca during his poetry readings. He has been described as rejecting "the conventional or 'straight' world [...] not only in lifestyle but in ruthless alterations to conventional syntax and spelling." He is often associated with the Shamanistic in literature. He has also had large exhibits of his paintings and made audio recordings on vinyl, cassette tape and CD. He was the lyricist and vocalist in the Ontario band, Luddites, and before that he collaborated with experimental rock group The Mandan Massacre. His work typically ranges from the mystical to the mundane, incorporating humour, a sense of wonder and sentimentality, and political commentary. He often does not capitalise his name or use capital letters.
In 2006, Nightwood Editions published radiant danse uv being, a poetic tribute to bissett with contributions from more than 80 writers, including Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen, Lorna Crozier, Patrick Lane, Steve McCaffery, P. K. Page and Darren Wershler-Henry. In 2006 he was also featured in an episode of the television series Heart of a Poet produced by Canadian filmmaker Maureen Judge.
Bissett's sound poetry was sampled by The Chemical Brothers on their 2007 CD We Are The Night. The CD title was taken from bissett's "Pome for Ooljah". The CD went #1 in the UK and North American Electronic Music Charts. In 2015 "Th ground is a prspektiv" by bissett was sampled for their album Born in the Echoes in "I'll See You There"
In 2007, bissett was awarded the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding contributions to literature in British Columbia. The following year, he was given an Honorary Doctorate in Literature from Thompson Rivers University.
- Th Jinx ship nd othr trips: pomes, drawings, collage - (1966)
- Th gossamer bed pan - (1967)
- Lebanon voices - (1967)
- Where is Miss Florence Riddle? - (1967)
- What Poetiks - (1967)
- Awake in th red desert! - (1968)
- Of the land divine service: poems - (1968)
- Liberating skies - (1969)
- The Lost Angel Mining Co. - (1969)
- S th story I to: trew adventure - (1970)
- Tuff shit: [love pomes] - (1970)
- Why dusint the League of Canadian Poets do sumthing nd get an organizer for cross country poetry reading circuit: [sic] press release. - (1970)
- Blew trewz - (1971)
- Dragon fly - (1971)
- Nobody owns th earth - (1971)
- Ice - (1972)
- Pomes for Yoshi - (1972)
- Th first sufi line - (1973)
- Pass th food release th spirit book - (1973)
- Living with the vishyun - (1974)
- Medicine my mouth's on fire - (1974)
- Space travl - (1974)
- What - (1974)
- Yu can eat it at th opening - (1974)
- Image being - (1975)
- Stardust - (1975)
- Th fifth sun - (1975)
- Venus - (1975)
- Th Wind Up Tongue - (1976)(ISBN 0887840221)
- An allusyn sic to macbeth - (1976)
- Sailor - (1978)
- Selected poems: beyond even faithful legends (editor) - (1980)
- Northern birds in color - (1981)
- Seagull on Yonge Street - (1983)
- Canada gees mate for life - (1985)
- The Last Blewointment anthology (editor) - (1986)
- Animal uproar - (1987) (ISBN 9780889222472)
- What we have - (1988) (ISBN 9780889222625)
- Hard 2 beleev - (1990) (ISBN 978-0-88922-277-9 )
- Inkorrect thots - (1992) (ISBN 978-0-88922-303-5)
- Th last photo uv th human soul - (1993) (ISBN 978-0-88922-322-6)
- Th influenza uv logik - (1995) (ISBN 978-0-88922-357-8)
- Loving without being vulnrabul - (1997) (ISBN 978-0-88922-372-1)
- Scars on th seehors - (1999) (ISBN 978-0-88922-387-5)
- B leev abul char ak trs - (2000) (ISBN 978-0-88922-433-9)
- The Oranges of Orangtangua - Housepress, Calgary (2002)
- peter among th towring boxes / text bites - (2002) (ISBN 978-0-88922-464-3)
- narrativ enigma / rumours uv hurricane - (2004) (ISBN 978-0-88922-507-7)
- northern wild roses / deth interrupts th dansing - (2005) (ISBN 978-0-88922-532-9)
- ths is erth, thees ar peopul - (2007) (ISBN 9780889225572)
- sublingual - (2008) (ISBN 9780889225893)
- griddle talk: a yeer uv bill n carol dewing brunch - (2009) (ISBN 0889226067)
- Time - (2010)
- Novel - (2011)
- Hungree Throat - (2013)
- Th Book - (2014)
- Bayard, Caroline. (1986). "Bill Bissett: Subversion et poesie concrete." Etudes Litteraires vol. 19 no. 2, 81-108.
- Coupal, Michel. (1993). "Quelques aspects de l'identite culturelle canadienne dans l'oeuvre de Bill Bissett." Annales du Centre de Recherches sur l'Amerique No. 18, 47-54, 360. ISSN 0399-0443
- David, Jack. (1977). "Visual Poetry in Canada: Birney, Bissett, and bp." Studies in Canadian Literature vol. 2, 252-66.
- Early, Len. (1976). "Bill Bissett: Poetics, Politics & Vision." Essays on Canadian Writing vol. 4, 4-24.
- Enright, Robert. (1997). "Composition by feeled the visual art of bill bissett." Capilano Review series 2 no. 23, 105-7.
- Maylon, Carol. (1997). "we ar always on th 401: the use of fiction in bissett's poems." Capilano Review series 2 vol. 23, 113-6.
- Pew, Jeff, and Roxborough, Stephen (editors). (2006). radiant danse uv being: A Poetic Portrait of bill bissett. Nightwood Editions. ISBN 0-88971-210-7
- Precosky, Don. (1990). "Bill Bissett: Controversies and Definitions." Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews vol. 27, 15-29.
- Precosky, Don. (1994). "Self selected/selected self: bill bissett's Beyond Even Faithful Legends." Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews vol. 34, 57-78.
- Twigg, Allan. "bissett, bill" on BC Bookworld.
- Wershler-Henry, Darren. (1997). "Vertical excess: what fuckan theory and bill bissett's concrete poetics." Capilano Review series 2 no. 23, 117-24.
- John Barton and Billeh Nickerson (editors). Seminal: The Anthology of Canada's Gay Male Poets. Arsenal Pulp Press. ISBN 978-1-55152-217-3
- Twigg, Alan (2007). "The Life and Times of bill bissett". ABC Bookworld. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
- New, W.H. (2002). Encyclopedia of literature in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto. p. 121.
- Jennings, Chris (2013). "bill bissett". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
- "Jack Kerouac, The Art of Fiction No. 41". The Paris Review. Summer 1968. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
- Cox, Ryan J. (September 2011). "HP Sauce and the Hate Literature of Pop Art: bill bissett in the House of Commons". English Studies in Canada 37 (3/4): 150.
- Cox, Ryan J. (September 2011). "HP Sauce and the Hate Literature of Pop Art: bill bissett in the House of Commons". English Studies in Canada 37 (3/4): 151.
- Davey, Frank (1974). From There to Here. Erin: Press Porcepic. p. 49.
- radiant danse uv being (Jeff Pew & Stephen Roxborough, eds.)
- "bill bissett 2007". georgewoodcock.com. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- "TRU to confer honorary degrees upon four Canadian achievers". Thompson Rivers University. May 13, 2008. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- http://comptessa.wordpress.com/ paintings by bill bissett
- Canadian Poetry Online: bill bissett - biography and 9 poems (a violent prson, they cut back sew much on th backs uv th poor, it usd 2 b, pavlovs dog 1, creem style garish, th kaptin sd he was mercurial, th breth heart uv th world, th futur uv salmon is us, hopra return 2 merlinonda amethyst voices)
- bill bissett's entry in *The Canadian Encyclopedia
- bill bissett archive held at the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections at York University, Toronto
- Vancouverartinthesixties.com Blewointment Magazine electronic archive
- answers.com/topic Record Review
- http://www.youtube.com/user/centralianwings/videos Bill Bissett Youtube Channel
- http://www.talonbooks.com/authors/bill-bissett Talon Books
- http://inside.tru.ca/?s=bill+bissett TRU University
- We Are the Night Chemical Brothers with Bill Bissett
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEbTzMgeD4k Strange Gray Day This - Maurice Embra - National Film Board - 1965
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEbTzMgeD4k CBC with Phyllis Webb - Bill Bissett with BP Nichol - 1968
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vv8BN2NA6nk CBC with Phyllis Webb - Bill Bissett with BP Nichol, Pt. 2 - 1968
- http://www.billbissett.com/ Bill Bissett website