bpNichol (Barrie Phillip Nichol) was born in Vancouver, BC, in 1944. In 1963, he received a teaching certificate from the University of British Columbia and briefly taught elementary school. He also worked for the University of Toronto Libraries, was a therapist and administrator for a therapy foundation, and, in the 1980s, wrote for the children’s television show Fraggle Rock, created by Jim Henson. bpNichol died in 1988.
In his own work, bpNichol spanned the boundaries of poetry, visual art, sound, and prose. In the 1960s, he published roughly 30 chapbooks, books, and pamphlets—a number of them featuring concrete poetry, illustration, and visual poems. He was also known for his use of the typewriter as a tool to explore the dimensions of the page. In the 1970s, he collaborated on sound poetry with Rafael Barreto-Rivera, Paul Dutton, and Steve McCaffery as the Four Horsemen.
Collections of work by bpNichol include The Martyrology, published as nine books in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s; Selected Writing: As Elected (1980); Zygal: A Book of Mysteries and Translations (1985); An H in the Heart: A Reader (1994); and Konfessions of an Elizabethan Fan Dancer (2000). He edited the anthology The Cosmic Chef: An Evening of Concrete (1970), which won the Canadian Governor General’s Award for Poetry. With Steve McCaffery, he edited Sound Poetry: A Catalogue (1978) and Rational Geomancy: The Kids of the Book-Machine: The Collected Research Reports of the Toronto Research Group 1973-1982 (1992), a manifesto and sampling of Canadian arts and writing.
bpNichol is featured in the film bp: pushing the boundaries (1998), and the critical biography aka bpNichol: A Preliminary Biography (2012) by Frank Davey.