Nights on Prose Mountain
The humour is not lost on me that one of the most well-known "poems" by experimental writer bpNichol, as appears above, is actually an excerpt from Extreme Positions, one of his many works of fiction. Nichol, who passed away in 1988 and someone who spent a career trying to break down the barriers between artistic genres, I feel would also get a kick out of the this fact.
His long out of print fiction has been collected in this generous anthology edited by Banff Centre Director of Literary Arts, derek beaulieu. The collection offers a bit of everything that makes Nichol so special to his admirers and the confounding, genre-twisting excursions that his detractors love to disparage. Incorporating autobiography, comics, visual poetry, and even musical notation, Nichol breaks open storytelling to let the reader see what is inside. beaulieu contextualizes the violence and sexuality that appears in a few of the stories by referencing Nichol’s inspiration: his experience as a laytherapist at Toronto psychoanalytic commune Therafields in the 1970s, but cleverly places the information in an afterword to let the reader make up their mind about the material before filling them in on the story behind the stories.
Still, complex simplicity of language is what holds attention, as in award-winning “The True Eventual Story of Billy the Kid” (“history always stands back calling people cowards or failures”) or “Cautious Diary” (“if i did not have my head tied on i would lose it here let me make the knot tighter not too tight now coz it hurts”). Nights on Prose Mountain thrills the reader wiling to open themselves to Nichol: “turn the page & i am here that in itself is interesting.”
This review was originally written for publication in Coast Mountain Culture. Pick up one of their back issues to support an independent BC publisher dedicated to telling stories about the Cascadia region.