Barrie Phillip Nichol

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Barrie P. Nichol
Born (1944-09-30)30 September 1944
Died 25 September 1988(1988-09-25) (aged 43)
Language English
Nationality Canadian
Genre Poetry
Literary movement Concrete poetry;
The Four Horsemen
Notable works The Martyrology
Notable awards Governor General's Award for poetry

Barrie Phillip Nichol (30 September 1944 Vancouver, British Columbia – 25 September 1988 Toronto, Ontario), who often went by his lower-case initials and last name, with no spaces (bpNichol), was a Canadian poet. He became widely known for his concrete poetry while living there in the 1960s. He received his elementary teaching certificate from the University of British Columbia in 1963, but he only worked a brief stint as a teacher. He had audited creative writing courses while in university, and his life moved in that direction after about a year of teaching.

His most famous published work is probably The Martyrology, a long poem encompassing 9 books in 6 volumes.

Nichol also worked in a wide variety of other genres, including musical theatre, children's books, collage/assemblage, pamphlets, spoken word, computer texts, fiction, and television.[1] For having such a brief lifespan, Nichol produced a highly prolific volume of work. However, it was often ephemeral, such as performance.


Nichol was born on September 30, 1944 at the Grace Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was the fifth child of Glen and Avis Nichol.[2]

Nichol first gained public notice in the mid-1960s with his hand-drawn or "concrete" poems, receiving international acclaim for the personal aesthetic conveyed by the medium. The "visual book" Still water, together with the booklets The true eventual story of Billy the Kid and Beach Head as well as the anthology of concrete poetry, The cosmic chef, won the Governor General's Award for poetry.[3]

In 1970, he began to collaborate with fellow poets Rafael Barreto-Rivera, Paul Dutton, and Steve McCaffery, forming the sound-poetry group The Four Horsemen. "Earlick", a project devoted to collecting and performing songs written by Canadian writers and poets, was undertaken in 1986-88 in collaboration with Victor Coleman and Whitney Smith.

He was known as a promoter of poetry and the small press, a manipulator of the lines between genres, and a prolific Canadian word artist. He founded Ganglia Press in 1965 with David Aylward and grOnk (magazine) in 1967 with bill bissett and David UU (David W. Harris). He died in 1988 due to complications from routine back surgery.


A / LAKE / A / LANE / A / LINE / A / LONE - bpNichol

His early work in sound poetry was documented in Michael Ondaatje's film Sons of Captain Poetry (1970); in Borders, a small phonodisc included with his poetic work Journeying & the returns (1967); and in the long-playing record Motherlove (1968). Also, the 1998 film bp/pushing the boundaries was made on Nichol and his contributions to art by Brian Nash (director) and Elizabeth Yake (producer).

A street in Toronto, Canada, is named in his honour. bpNichol Lane is located in Huron-Sussex behind Coach House Press. It features an eight-line poem by Nichol carved into the pavement: "A / LAKE / A / LANE / A / LINE / A / LONE".[4]

Published works[edit]

Note: this list is not complete.


  • Cycles Etc. (7 Flowers Press, 1965)
  • Scraptures: second sequence (Ganglia Press, 1965)
  • Cold Mountain. Singing Hands Series 3 (1966)
  • Journeying & the returns (1967)
  • Konfessions of an Elizabethan Fan Dancer (Writers Forum Quartos, 1967; Weed Flower Press, 1973; Coach House Books, 2004)
  • Still Water (Talonbooks, 1970)
  • Monotones (1971)
  • The Captain Poetry Poems (1971)
  • The Martyrology, Books 1 and 2 (1972) - Complete text (Martyrology 1 - 6) at Coach House Books
  • Love: A book of remembrances (Talonbooks, 1974)
  • The Martyrology, Books 3 and 4 (1976)
  • Selected Writing: As Elected (Talonbooks, 1980)
  • The Martyrology, Book 5 (1982)
  • "First Screening by bp Nichol". 1984. 
  • Zygal: A Book of Mysteries & Translations (1985) - Complete text at Coach House Books
  • The Martyrology, Book 6 Books (1987)*Gifts: The Martyrology Book[s] 7& (1990)
  • Ad Sanctos (a choral performance work) (1993)
  • A path to the moon


  • Ballads of the Restless Are (The Runcible Spoon, 1968)
  • The true eventual story of Billy the Kid (1970)
  • Beach Head (1970)
  • Transformational Unit (1971) - Complete text at Coach House Books
  • Aleph Unit (1973) - Complete text at Coach House Books
  • From 'The Captain Poetry Poems' (1971)

From 'The Captain Poetry Poems' (1971) (and many others)


Visual books[edit]

  • Still water (1970)
  • ABC: the Aleph Beth book (1971)
  • Extreme Positions (Longspoon Press, 1981)


  • Motherlove (1968)



  1. ^
  2. ^ Davey, Frank (2012). Aka Bpnichol: A Preliminary Biography. Toronto: ECW Press. ISBN 9781770902602. 
  3. ^ "bpNichol (1944-1988)". One Zero Zero. Retrieved 30 September 2016. 
  4. ^ "bnNichol Ln". Google Maps. Retrieved 30 September 2016. 
  • bpNichol (edited by Nelson Ball). Konfessions of an Elizabethan Fan Dancer. Toronto: Coach House Books, 2004. ISBN 1-55245-137-2

External links[edit]