bill bissett and MLA Chernoff performed live on Wednesday, Nov. 16, in the Chapel of St. Bede, Renison University College, University of Waterloo. This event was co-sponsored by the University of Waterloo and the Elora Poetry Centre & Gallery, with support from the Arts First Pedagogical Enhancement Fund at University of Waterloo, the League of Canadian Poets, and Canada Council for the Arts. It was linked to the annual 100 Thousand Poets for Change global poetry initiative organized by Michael Rothenberg, held in over 700 international locations. Sadly, Michael died immediately after the event, so we were unable to send him the link to view it.
Described by Jack Kerouac as “one of the great poets,” bill bissett is an internationally acclaimed language poet, artist, and musician. He is the author of more than 60 books of poetry. Safia Southey observes, “bissett dispenses with standard written English (initial capitals, spelling, and punctuation), connecting with language on an elemental level that some reviewers have considered shaman-like.” Frank Davey has described him as “rejecting the conventional or ‘straight’ world . . . not only in lifestyle but in ruthless alterations to conventional syntax.” bill is a spellbinding performance artist who had delighted audiences at the Elora Poetry Centre on two previous occasions coordinated with 100 Thousand Poets for Change. This time bill was accompanied by Metroland Media 2021 Urban Hero winner Honey Novick, poet and singer, as well as writer, director & producer Wesley Rickert, who gave virtuosic performances of sound poetry.
Gordon Hill Press, publisher of MLA Chernoff’s recent collection [Squelch Procedures], notes on its website that “MLA Chernoff (they/ them/@citation_bb) was born at Women’s College Hospital in December of 1991–oops. They are a six-hundred-year-old Jewish, non-binary pome machine, a Postmodern Neo-Marxist, and (somehow) a PhD Candidate of the Neoliberal University of York University, where they once held a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship–no kidding.” MLA had delivered a stunning virtual performance for students at Renison University College and friends of the Elora Poetry Centre back in January 2022, but seeing him perform live was truly memorable. He was introduced by Jeremy Luke Hill, his publisher, who recollected how bowled over he had been the first time he heard MLA give a live reading, and everybody in the audience soon understood why.
Although staged for ARTS 130 at University of Waterloo, the event was open to the Renison and University of Waterloo communities, friends of the Elora Poetry Centre, and general public. It was filmed by Robert Laurin of Waterloo Studio and can be viewed on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1Ppud6GPQw&list=PLxaW0IcKekckyGxSmT2K0mfVi-5n3_R3j