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, known as bpNichol, was a Canadian poet, writer, sound poet , editor and grOnk/Ganglia Press publisher. His body of work encompasses poetry, children's books, television scripts,[1] novels, short fiction, computer texts, and sound poetry. His love of language and writing, evident in his many accomplishments, continues to be carried forward by many.[2][3][4][5]


Though Nichol's early writing consisted of fiction and lyrical poems, he first received international recognition in the 1960s for concrete poetry. The first major publications included Journeying & the returns (1967),[6] a purple box containing visual & lyrical poems and Konfessions of an Elizabethan Fan Dancer (1969)[7] a book of concrete poetry. He won the 1970 Governor General's Award [8] for poetry with not one but four publications: the prose booklet The True Eventual Story of Billy the Kid [9] a collection of lyrical poems, Beach Head,[10] the boxed concrete sequence, Still Water and The Cosmic Chef,[11] a boxed anthology of concrete and visual poetry.

His best known work, The Martyrology (1972-1992) [12] is an open-ended, lifelong poem that investigates language. The 'saints' are drawn from 'st' words (storm becomes St. Orm) and their spiritual quest provides a springboard from which linguistic issues of textuality, reading and writing are explored.

One of Nichol's strengths was his ability to collaborate with other artists. The work of the sound poetry group, The Four Horsemen (Nichol, Rafael Barreto-Rivera,[13] Paul Dutton and Steve McCaffery) has been documented in Volcano Theatre's [14] stage performances of The Four Horsemen Project (Dora Mavor Moore Award 2007 & 2015). He collaborated with Steve McCaffrey to form The Toronto Research Group (TRG),[15] with Barbara Caruso,[16][17] visual artist, with R. Murray Schafer,[18][19] Howard Gerhard [20] and John Beckwith,[21] composers.

Nichol's zest for publishing other writers was reflected in founding Ganglia Press [22] with David Aylward in 1964 and grOnk in 1967 with bill bissett and David UU ( David W. Harris). He was a volunteer editor at Coach House Books from 1975 to his death. In 1977, he was one of the collective that established Underwhich Editions [23] which edited, designed, published and distributed the works of worthy writers. During the 1970s and 80s, bp was a contributing editor of Open Letter,[24] a literary magazine

Nichol also had a large presence on screens of various sizes. In the mid-1980s, he became a writer for the children's television show, Fraggle Rock, produced by Jim Henson. Soon, scriptwriting for other children's television shows [25] followed: The Raccoons, Under the Umbrella Tree, Care Bears and Babar. Several films include bp and his work, starting with Michael Ondaatje's short film, Sons of Captain Poetry;[26] Ron Mann's Poetry in Motion [27] followed by full length features bp: pushing the boundaries,[28] [29] directed by Elizabeth Yake and Brian Nash [30] and most recently, Justin Stephenson's award winning film, The Complete Works.[31] In the past few years there has been an upsurge of interest in First Screenings,[32] Nichol's 1984 computer poem (updated by Jim Andrews and his team [33]) which has been part of electronic exhibitions from Mexico to Oakville.


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

The bpNichol Chapbook Award,[34] a prize for poetry publications between 10-48 pages, was established in 1986 by Phoenix Community Works Foundation. This annual award for excellence in Canadian Poetry in English is now administered by Meet the Presses collective.

A street in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is named in his honour. bpNichol Lane is located near Huron and Sussex Streets beside Coach House Press. It features an eight-line poem by Nichol carved into the pavement: "A / LAKE / A / LANE / A / LINE / A / LONE".[35]

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)



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  2. ^ Barbour, Douglas (1992). bp-nichol-and-his-works. Toronto: ECW Press. ISBN 9781550220667. 
  3. ^ Miki, Roy (2002). meanwhile: the critical writings of bpNichol. Vancouver: Talonbooks. ISBN 9780889224476. 
  4. ^ Bowering, George (1994). An H in the Heart: A Reader. ISBN 9780771068140. 
  5. ^ Davey, Frank (2012). Aka Bpnichol: A Preliminary Biography. Toronto: ECW Press. ISBN 9781770902602. 
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  7. ^ Nichol, bp (1969). Konfessions of an Elizabethan Fan Dancer. Toronto: Coach House Books. ISBN 9781552451373. 
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  15. ^ Jaeger, Peter (1997). ABC of Reading TRG. Toronto: Talon Books. ISBN 9780889224230. 
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  35. ^ "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]