bpNichol’s animated computer poem First Screening is one of the centre-points of our current exhibition, Down To Write You This Poem Sat. Originally developed for the Apple IIe computer and made available on floppy disc, the poems were nearly rendered inaccessible when that technology became obsolete. It’s thanks to Jim Andrews and the visual poets at vispo.com that we’re able to experience them today. Andrews and his team have carefully restored and preserved the work, migrating it to a series of contemporary formats.
From Victoria, BC, Andrews has been publishing vispo.com since 1996. Before that he produced a literary radio show called Fine Lines and later ?FRAME?. Of bpNichol, Andrews says: “I met bpNichol when I was producing the radio show. His parents lived in Victoria; he’d visit occasionally. He kindly appeared on the show a couple of times. I gave him a ride to the station once in my little yellow Honda. He told me about having recently ‘discovered writing for television.’ He wrote for Fraggle Rock, a much beloved Muppets spin-off.”
Of his own work, he says: “I thought of myself as a poet but was not interested in the usual modus operandi of publishing poemy poems in the little magazines. Radio was an interesting exploration of the literary for me, and then when the web came along, I fell hard for its multi-medial and potentially intermedial possibilities, and also its ability to reach an international audience in ways that I couldn’t otherwise.”
To experience some of our favourite visual poems by Jim Andrews, click on the following links and (as Andrews advises): “Turn out the lights! Turn up the sound! Throw away your preconceptions about poetry!”
Image: Installation view (detail) of bpNichol, First Screening, 1983-1984. Courtesy of the estate of bpNichol. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.