TEXTual ARTtivity opens in Cobourg

By Wally Keeler

Works by bill bissett hang on the walls at the Human Bean in Cobourg.

WALLY KEELER PHOTO Works by bill bissett hang on the walls at the Human Bean in Cobourg.


The second annual TEXTual ARTivity exhibition organized by poetry in Cob{our}g spaces, (piCs) has touched down once again in the Human Bean Coffeehouse in downtown Cobourg.

TEXTual ARTivity is the artistic display of language, words, letters, punctuation, all of the tools that a poet utilizes to create poetry. Poets are implicitly orthographic; the evolution of communications technology provided poets with the opportunity to apply their peculiar interests with language to other media manifestations. The walls of the Human Bean are graced with a wide assortment of pieces from poets across Canada including two of Canada’s leading exemplars of TEXTual ARTivity - bill bissett and Robert Zend..

American beat author Jack Kerouac, in The Paris Review, summer 1968, called bill bissett one of “the great poets.” In 1977, several MPs raised the issue of arts funding to bissett in the House of Commons, charging him with producing poetry that is “disgusting and pornographic.” Canadian poet and literary scholar Frank Davey described how bissett had been “ejected from cross-Canada trains, evicted by countless landlords, beaten, harassed by police and arrested and sentenced to prison.” In Canadian Forum, Davey said that bissett’s “vision is transcendent, static world, simple and hard in outline, paralleling our own complex and sordid one.”

The upside of bill bissett is his fully intact intelligence, imagination and tenacity. He uses the manual typewriter as a drawing instrument, to create a powerful blend of the visual while retaining the poetry, lyrics and phrases as they leak through the heavy hand of typography. TEXTual ARTivity features a dazzling display of bissett’s typographic creativity, which complements his performances of chanting, lower casing, pronunciation, and other well-controlled extravagances.

The Canadian Encyclopedia describes bissett as “frank in both language and illustrations, bissett’s poems link expressions of love to philosophical explorations of love’s value, and anti-materialism to the pursuit of peace.”

Robert Zend is a Hungarian poet who had fled to Canada as a political refugee after the failed 1956 revolution against Soviet occupation. Zend has been described as a poet without borders and an explorer of imaginary worlds.

World famous mime artist Marcel Marceau had this to say about Zend: “Once Robert Zend told me that I was a poet of gestures. Once I told him that he was a mime with words.”

Robert Zend has created a body of work that is marked with extraordinary wit in either language.

TEXTual ARTivity presents a series of Zend’s ‘typescapes’ using cut-out stencils and a manual typewriter to create overlapping images on a page. Zend’s work is infused with a child’s playfulness with language and image.

In his own words, Zend wrote, “Here is the solution for the problems of the world: We have to learn to play. With worlds, with ideas, with people, with life, with ourselves.” The work of Zend is a liberation of language and imagination in which “freedom is everyone’s homeland.”

TEXTual ARTivity incudes the graphical works of several other outstanding practitioners from across Canada. There are blends of photographs overlaid with text, photographs of text, painted text, cutout text, TEXTual ARTivity.

Everyone is invited to the opening reception and open mic poetry reading at the Human Bean, Thursday, April 9 at 7 p.m. The show runs to the end of the month.

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