Sunday, 8 February 2015

Sound Poetry & Visual (Concrete) Poetry

Please have a look at the following clips and comment on some of them:

Phyllis Webb - Interview with Bill Bissett and bp nichol - two parts:

Selected Poems by Bill Bissett and bp nichol:

"What Is a Poem?":

"Love Poem for Gertrude Stein": 

"Gypsy Dreamer": 

"Four Horsemen": 


"First Screening": 

-> See youtube sidebar for more options :o)

You are also welcome to share your own sound or visual poem here! Enjoy!

Hugo Ball's "Karawane" 
[Please note: Hugo Ball is one of the German Dadaists; this means he is not Canadian!]
Image from:


  1. This class is really the first time I have ever explored poetry in such a deep and diverse way. We had the odd poetry unit in my high school english classes but all we really did was write haikus. I have never been exposed to this many poets or unique styles of poetry so when we first watched the video of Phyllis Webb interviewing Bill Bissett and bp nichol I really had no idea what to think about sound poetry. At first I honestly just found it funny. That video was basically exactly how I imagine the 70's. Bissett and nichol looked and acted like the stereotype I have of artsy hippies so it took a while for me to really take sound poetry seriously. That being said after watching a few more videos of Bill Bissett's work I have come to see the beauty in sound poetry. They are very complex and creative art pieces that I for one would never be able to create.

    I especially liked Bill Bissett's piece "gypsy dreamer". I wont deny the fact that the first time I watched it I thought it was a little bit dramatic and weird, however after I watched it a few more times I came to appreciate it. It was hard for me to fully process everything he was saying but I thought that it had a fairly uplifting message of the importance of living in the present. A line that stuck out for me was "gypsy dreamers never regret the past". While I feel like this line acts as evidence that sound poets are just artsy hippies I also think it does have a certain depth. I often get stuck worrying about past mistakes so it is important for me to be reminded not to dwell in my past, but rather be as a "gypsy dreamer" and live more in the present.

    The thing that I find interesting about sound poetry is that everything is done in a specific way for a reason. There is a certain finesse about this type of poetry that I think is unique to this style. By recording these works the artists are able to add back ground music or even pre record other parts and layer them, giving the final piece depth. I think that while sound poetry may seem silly at first it really is an art form. It is a performance. The poems are quite literally a bit of a song and dance.

    1. I really agree with what you're saying about how everything about sound poetry is deliberate and finessed. It gives it such a musical characteristic that I find other poetry lacks. Maybe for me its because slam poetry is similar to the lyrical focused hip hop and rap that I enjoy. Effectively, rap and slam poetry are one in the same, only differentiated by the existence of a musical beat accompanying the words. I think this is why we see slam poetry preformed in a setting similar to an "open-mic" setting where musical artists might perform...

  2. After watching a few of these sound poetry performances, I can definitely say that it isn't something for everyone. If I'm being completely honest, it's not really something for me. While I certainly don't disregard its value and strength in performance, it isn't something that connects with me as well as other forms of poetry. That being said, I did enjoy some of the pieces, particularly the Four Horsemen.
    The Four Horsemen ride out during the end of times in the Book of Revelations and I felt like the performers did a good job of recreating that atmosphere. The clip clop of the horses hooves and the sounds snuffling of the horses amidst the somewhat chaotic sounds was effective. With four performers, there were many layers of sound that required multiple viewings to analyze properly. There seemed to be a gradual buildup, with the horse sounds coming near the end, perhaps signalling that the horsemen are riding out.
    I find that sound poetry taps into my more primal instincts as opposed to other poetry. It doesn't give us time to think about the content or themes in the way we usually do, but encourages us to react instinctively. How do the sounds make us feel? What is the musicality of the poem like? What kind of atmosphere does this create? In order to better understand sound poetry, I needed to assume a different set of analytical tools. Once I did that, the poem became much easier to follow.

  3. After listening to bpNichol perform his sound poetry, I find that I draw a direct relation between him and musical acts such as the Cocteau Twins and Sigur Rós. Both acts -- like bpNichol -- use/used a sort of incomprehensible language in order to create an emotional response in the listener. I think that it is significant, whether in poetry or music, that an artist can create meaning through sound rather than words. This may reflect the innate difference in peoples favouring certain senses. In that people draw more meaning from words rather than sound, they may subconsciously translate the heard words into a visual outline of the meaning of the song. Of course this is assuming that words represent concrete, or nearly concrete, aspects of the human experience. While people who draw meaning from sound, such as those who listen to music in a foreign language (opera for me), or "gibberish" like that of bpNichol, may have a more abstract view of the world, and therefore draw just as much meaning from sound as they do concrete language.

  4. I'd like to share some google poems made for visuals that I have created.

    Sometimes I get a good feeling
    Sometimes I get a feeling
    Sometimes in December
    Sometimes I cry.

    Where the hell are you
    Where the hell are my sun chips
    Where the hell are my shades
    Where the hell are you when I need you
    Where the hell are you sun.

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  6. I watched both interviews with bp nichol and Bill Bissett, as well as the latter's performance of "Gypsy Dreamer" and I found the concept as well as the delivery intriguing, almost entrancing in a way. I like the idea of incorporating sound and music into a spoken word performance, but at the same time it confuses me. At which point should we differentiate between a telling of a sound poem, as opposed to music?

    The performances the two poets gave during the interviews reminded me of First Nations' chanting; but that is often classified as more 'song' than 'poem' because of it's musicality and its association with dancing; however on the other end of the spectrum, rap is called music, but it is often more monotone than some of these examples of sound poetry. Personally, I find it confusing and not something that I would listen to regularly if I had the choice.

    In terms of more modern sound poetry, I found a 'song' as the artist calls it called "Shia LaBeouf" which I'll link here

    This seems more reminiscent to me of sound poetry, but it IS much more satirical in nature and melodramatic. I'm honestly not quite sure what the artist was trying to achieve in this song, but it was quite interesting in a strange way.


  7. My thing with sound poetry is that I don’t understand it. I have a reductive view on art: if it’s not necessary, take it out. If an action, a word, even a grammar mark exist in a work without adding meaning, my opinion is take it out. It’s a harsh view, especially since what adds meaning is subjective. An example of a sound poem that works is Pome Poem. The tones are lyrical, and the repetition serves to underscore the central meaning: we are poems, we are all filled with poetry. Without the sing-song delivery, the repetition would fall flat and fail to resonate the way it does as a sound poem.