bill bissett: Writer, Poet, Artist
Photo by Joy Masuhara
bill bissett born on lunaria sum 4oo yeers ago approximatelee in lunarian
time was sent 2 erth on first childrns shuttul from th at that time
trubuld planet landid in halifax moovd 2 vancouvr at 17 moovd
2 london wher i was part uv luddites alternativ rock band thn
toronto wher ium poet in residens at workman arts & recording
with pete dako wanting alwayze 2 xploor words n sounds n
image in th writing n painting showing paintings at th secret
handshake art galleree toronto most recent book novel from talonbooks
rusty talk with bill bissett
I asked bill bissett these questions about his writing process:
He responded by email over the month of September 2012:
dere kathryn th first 2 qwestyuns 4 rustee talk mor as it cums in
th first creativ work i remembr was in grade 3 or 4 b4 going in2 th hospital 4 a coupul uv yeers was a pome i wrote abt sail boats in th watr n th feeling in my brain n heart was veree thrilling 4 me an elixr reelee
thn a littul whil latr aftr mor thn a few operaysyuns i was in th oxygen tent n realizing i wud nevr b a dansr n or a figur skatr my first reel ambishyuns i cud write n paint i thot n that way feel th line mooving thru space n that way as well feeling th taktilitee uv life being physikal th enhansment from th abstraksyuns uv th skripts we wer ar all living thru i wrote my first storee thn in th oxygen tent wher i was deliting 2 drink orange crush n see th brite orange liquid cumming out uv my bodee immediatelee thru mor tubes i lovd that n that orange runway made me laff n feel veree poignant as well as my home planet lunaria was veree orange b4 all us childrn were remoovd from that troubuld planet n sent 2 erth
my first storee wch i wrote in th oxygen tent was abt a boy who didint want 2 follow rules n wantid 2 find his own way n swam out past th undrtow wch oftn was both a physikal risk n a metaphor 4 sew manee othr things in nova scotia n at great dangr he ovrcame th fors from th watr n made it 2 shore n thn vowd he wud dew it agen n agen sirtinlee if life wer as friabul as it seemd sew definitlee 2 b why not take th risk
my fathr had th storee typd out in several mor copees that was my first publishd work i feel veree warm abt him now in ths moment that he did dew that 4 me n evn tho i didint reelee start writing agen until aftr my mothr went 2 spirit evn a few yeers aftr that 16 n reelee agen full time until i got 2 vancouvr 17 my yerning 2 b always writing evr sins i was in th oxygen tent at 10or 11 has nevr left me
influenses medium genre hungree throat mor as it cums in
th subjekt 4 me is th genre n th genre is th subjekt iuv alwayze wantid 2 put books 2gethr that hold or contain diffrent genres as iuv also writtn pomes that contain difrent genres iuv oftn calld such pomes fusyun pomes my most recent work novel my first novel made me mor aware uv th medium is th genre n th genre is th medium n th medium slash subjekt is th genre mor aware thn evr how we write is can b what we ar writing abt mor thn an approach 2 mor thn creating th nuans uv it is th uv in my first novel calld novel abt 2 yeers ago brout out by talonbooks its a collagist work prob also calld post modernist in that th linear flow storee line is part uv th whol work is not th whol work th whole work inklewds th modernist storee line th serch 4 a trew love elements uv gangstr espionage n th serch n what happns evn tho veree labyrinthean also inklewds essays sum abt peopul we know in th known fakshul world introdusing ideas uv ficksyun fakt identitee dew we reelee know them can we n wch them is it a fact n pomes also like th essays hiliting theems that ar in th storee line th charaktrs mooving thru space n time n situaysyuns n thr is a hi degree uv th elements uv randomness wch th strukshur uv th work novel conveys inklewds n is conveying
my first biggest n still biggest influens is gertrude stein who showsd n shows me espeshulee in stanzas in meditaysyuns that words need not onlee 2 represent but ar in themselvs konstrukts wch fold unfold n refiliing fold in2 n out uv each othr ar in fakt puzzuls made uv each othr sew they can b on theyr own not representing bcumming n being what whats dew our grammars cum from our emosyuns n or dew our emosyuns mostlee reelee cum from our binaree based grammar thees unsolvabul qwestyuns prsist n ar oftn endlesslee interesting yes
othr huge erlee influenses allen ginsberg robert duncan denise levrtov bob cobbing diane di prima sew manee infinitlee manee d.a. levy bpNichol martina clinton maxine gadd judith copithorne influences with also sew manee n now 2day peopul othr poets i dew reedings with
sew impressd with adeena karasick kai kellough sheri- d wilson ivan coyote richard van de camp david bateman naomi laufer jill mcginn toshio ushiroguchi-pigott chadwick juriansz ar names uv amayzing poets that jump 2 mind helen posno
hungree throat my nu book my second novel is mor a novel in meditaysyun 2 charaktrs alredee found each othr trying 2 let each othr farthr n furthr in wun afrayd uv intimasee from his memoreez being 2 chargd n not let go uv how hard that is getting ovr trauma his bad memoree attacks drag him away from whom he loves evn from himself in th present n ths collagist post modernist work tho not as much prhaps as novel inklewds essays pomes seeminglee unrelatid help th reedr n th work 2 reflekt on all th key issews in ths work that cum in2 wun whil reeding hungree throat
thees 2 books ar sew importnat 2 me kathryn n i wud reelee like what yu dew with what ium sending yu 2 focus on hungree throat as it is cumming out in th spring 2013 from talonbooks n th nu book ium working on now is in no way a novel sew thees 2 books ar my 2 novels se far altho th charaktrs ar diffrent peopul thees 2 books cud complement each othr th collagist form works veree well 4 me with th way uv working that can inklewd randomness qwestyuning identitee fact ficksyun 4 me thrs an interesting bredth n spekulaysyun in ths kind uv working th tropes n trajsktoreez longings changes growing n ungrowing lyrik n diffikulteez n treetment uv th konstruktiv urges what we konstrukt what is konstruktid what we can build 2gethr n what we can build n how what we build is building us othr important 2 me writrs hart crane e.e. cummings
latelee ium reeding davisadora by michael ondaatje his comeing thru slaughter is wun uv my all time favorit books
evr p.d.james nu book death comes to pemberley man about town by mark merlis have yu red anne carsons autobiography of red anothr uv my all time most adord books also among th erlier listings touchd on heer erleer in my life that is john rechy city uv night also colm toibin wrote an amayzing book i red coupul yeers ago almost that same titul as john rechy s brilyant city of night colm toibin s book titul is the story of the night camus sartre debeauvoir gide wer huge influenses on me as i was growing in my erlee teens n issac singer shirley ann grau truman capote tenessee williams william inge eugene oneil diane di prima this kind uv bird flies backwards shakespere in school th first sound poetree recording i herd was edith sitwell facade blew me away helpd start me out fr sure as did n dew all thees peopul n sew manee mor
sew hungree throat is a novel in meditaysyun th meditaysyun is abt letting go letting go uv attachment 2 traumatik memoreez n how can yu moov on or 4ward if yu ar klingnig 2 solv or whatevr bad n or haunting memoreez uv th past in wuns life how thees 2 peopul try 2 love each othr thru th dilemma they ar living n what happns
intrspersd thru ths meditayshyun discussyuns conver
saysyuns pledges collapses n regroupings ar pomes song essays its not a book uv doom but it contains sum doom n like all us writrs have n dew talk abt thru th ages how hard 2 love 2 find it n follow thru with it its politiks n sankshuaree part n parts uv th way my throat is hungree 4 breething my throat is hungree 4 eeting my throat is
hungree 4 singing my throat is hungree 4 yu
wrap up qwestyuns n answrs 4 rusty talk hope evreethings great w yu Kathryn
maybe 2 wrap up heer 4 th rusty 4 now aneeway from th beginning i always wantid 2 b writing reelee in approx 7 approaches 2 writing poetree my main wuns being sound n vizual words spred all ovr th page using th space uv th page as whol blank canvas not onlee using a porsyun uv that availabul space as square or rektangul th shape n size uv th copee size n th book size th ekonomeez uv n othr considraysuns have brout th writing in2 lettr size 81/2 x 11 inches drastikalee n finding th wayze thru th availabul transmitting vehikuls n xpanding wuns repertoire 4 inspiraysyun i follow th vois es uv th work at hand or th writing godesses n gods who i sew beleev in guide me 2 write with novel whol passages wer literalee diktatid 2 me sumtimes thrs a lot uv editing as in th pome 4 hart crane in time sumtimes thrs almost no editing th tiny librarians pome in novel went thru seemd ike manee rewrites othr parts uv novel came instantlee iuv nevr xperiensd a writrs blok i cant imagine evn how painful that wud b
i just finishd proof reeding RUSH what fuckan theory a book on theory i wrote n publishd in 72 wch is now being refreshd n reissewd by book thug in toronto my second novel hungree throat will b out in spring 13 n what ium reelee working on now is my nu book mostlee dewing a lot uv lettr texting in it
yu can find a wide range uv my work in you tube n also my web site th offishul bill bissett web site www.billbissett.com
oh thr ar mor thn a few cds out uv my work chek th cv in th website th most recent cd is nothing will hurt with pete dako xtraordinaree musician n arrangr n composr n gary shenkman n ambrose pottie
cest sa i gess thats all 4 now thanks sew much 4 yr interest thees intrviews ar kinduv hard 2 dew sumtimes a prson dusint want 2 bcum 2 self conscious but they reelee help me as well thanks veree much
hungree throat veree recentlee compleetid out spring 2013
hungree throat is a novel in meditaysyun 2 peopul getting 2gethr wun afrayd uv continuing intimasee bcoz uv what has happend 2 him th othr not bewilderd n anxious is eagr 4 nu xperiences with his nu partnr th meditaysyun is partlee abt letting go how hard that is n sumtimez how seminglee eezee th struggul letting go can b owing 2 th obsessing paralyzing n shaping burdns uv our pasts th obstakuls that trauma creates 4 our presents n futurs layrs n layrs ficksyuns n realiteez wch ar peopuls throats ar hungree 4 breething 4 speeking digesting saying singing eeting tasting giving kissing sew much uv th worlds throats ar hungree not onlee 4 evreething also 4 food watr air wun uv th last stages b4 passing uv peopul with parkinsons is whn th throat no longr swallows millyuns uv peopul with sleep apnea sleep with masheens pushing air in2 theyr throats all nite long 2 prevent closure th throat chakra being well is a condishyun uv our life th throat is hungree also 4 acceptans uv what is n what has bin n what is beleevablee possibul thru song sound poetree narrativ n non narrativ analysis meditaysun words n meenings oftn dissolving hungree throat looks at all thees dynamiks 2 share greev celebrate uplift love n moov 4words play with th word growing its parts sylabuls n th mouth n throat shaping each in our times gr ow wo ing wing s
bill bissett's MOST RECENT BOOK
hungree throat by bill bissett, Talonbooks, 2013
Description from the Publisher:
Written in his non-hierarchic, phonetic orthography, bill bissett’s second novel-poem, hungree throat, recounts the relationship of two men – one bold and unafraid, the other burdened by terrible memories and unable to trust. In this uplifting “novel in meditaysyun” about love, in which we witness ten years of a shared life, we are reminded of the overlapping, sometimes conﬂicting multitude of “hungers” common to us all:
all our throats
r hungree 4 breething being sing
ing eeting digesting speeking
saying food kissing watr love
air ﬁcksyun fakt memoree
th present what is nu all ovr
lapping imbuing change
th throat chakra being well
is a condishyn 4 life
RUSTY TALK WITH FILMMAKER NADIA LITZ
Nadia Litz is an award-winning Canadian actress and director. After her debut at Cannes in the award-winning film The Five Senses, Maclean’s magazine voted her “One to Watch” for the new millennium. She played Sam Shepard’s daughter in 2002’s After The Harvest and was nominated for a Gemini Award for Best Actress for that role. In 2007 she won the Vancouver’s Critics Award for her role in Reg Harkema’s Monkey Warfare. Her 2010 short film, How To Rid Your Lover Of A Negative Emotion Caused By You!, produced by the Canadian Film Centre where she was a director-in- residence, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010, has played over a dozen film festivals throughout the US, Canadian and internationally, including out-of-competition at the Cannes Court Metrage, winning best short at Austin’s Fantastic Fest 2011. In 2012 Litz was featured on the prestigious Wholphin anthology, alongside Jay Duplass (Jeff Who Lives At Home) and Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene). Recently Litz completed an experimental short doc on Canada’s revered and controversial Right Honorable Adrienne Clarkson, which makes its world premiere at VIFF in September 2012. Her first feature Hotel Congress, a comedy-of manners that takes place in a Tucson hotel is in post-production. While her second feature, a love story that takes place in a suicide forest in Japan, goes to camera in 2013. You can follow her on Twitter.
RUSTY TALK WITH NADIA LITZ
Kathryn Mockler: What is your first memory of writing creatively?
Nadia Litz: In grade school we had to choose a story of a historical figure, do research on the figure, and then make a book on that figure. We had to write it, illustrate it, and even bind the book ourselves. My dad had taken me to go and see Milos Forman's Amadeus and I became obsessed with it and subsequently Mozart, so I chose to write my "book" on him. I called it "Wolfie".
KM: When did you first start directing and writing for film?
NL: I tend to do a lot of "research" before I try something. I read screenwriting books and had taken classes, and I had been aimlessly writing pretend scripts and treatments for a while—maybe 10 years. But, it wasn't until my last year of university studying Cinema Studies that I directed. It was a 3-minute experimental short that was an assignment in a directing for non-majors class. It landed me a spot as a director-in-residence at the Canadian Film Center months later. That was in 2009. Which proves I'm a noobie and you should probably stop reading this.
KM: How do you think your acting background influences or affects your directing and writing?
NL: I think it does but it is hard to articulate how. I suppose I trust what good actors can bring to a moment, so when I was first writing, I tended to underwrite (according to producers and story editors). I continue to learn the balance of what should be on the page and what shouldn't be. I was just re-reading Allan Ball's American Beauty, and in the script he writes a stage direction for the character Carolyn: "Even when she slept she had a look of determination on her face." That kind of writing is gold for an actor. As an actor if I read that one line, I would understand the character, so I try to be mindful of things like that when I write and when I direct. The script for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is also full of stage direction like that. Simple editorial clues that will be an anchor for an actor, without force feeding it. I don't mind breaking what might be considered screenwriting convention in order to make a script come alive for an actor; however, I do believe in a firm structure as a base.
KM: What inspires the stories you tell?
NL: I have noticed that locations seem to inspire the first grain of an idea for me. However, I hope that whatever inspires me at a given time will evolve as I do as a writer. I think the first few stories we tell tend to have a personal element. Filmmakers can seem like we want our trajectory to be the indie personal story root because when we are first starting out, we have budgetary constraints that lend themselves to personal stories. I love including personal elements in my stories, little nods to my life, but I have yet to ever want to tell the truth about my life on film. My preference is to look around me. I also like emotionalizing things that are "concepts". Also, I get a bunch of ideas via the Sunday Times. Too many, really, it's shameful.
KM: Was there a writer or filmmaker that had a big impact on you?
NL: Kurt Vonnegut was the first great literary writer I read as a teenager. He had those naive drawings in a few of his novels, which always seemed subversive to high art literature and cinematic to me for some reason. His voice resonates with me still. He is wry and detached but wholly emotional to me. His satire is never mean. He points out the meanness of the world because his heart is broken that it is like that. That's how I see him. I relate to that way of thinking. His voice/tone is highly original.
The list is too long for filmmakers. However most of the films I love tend to be some form of comedy-of-manners in a broad stroke way. I think a lot of Kubrick's films, for example, are comedy-of-manners so I have a broad idea about that genre. Bunuel, Oshima, Ozu, Rhomer, Kubrick, Cohen Brothers, Whit Stillman, Coppola (Sofia)—usual suspects.
KM: When you are directing films that you didn't write—what is the process like? Do you have any advice about what screenwriters can expect when working with a director?
NL: I love the process of directing others' work. It's a whole other ballgame then directing your own work, and both are equally satisfying for different reasons. In directing another screenwriter's script you have to find clever ways of making it meaningful to you. It's a challenge to have one more person you need to satisfy. It can be exciting that your only way to tell the story is visually/emotionally. With the short “How To Rid Your Lover of a Negative Emotion Caused By You!” it was a case of having two very strong voices in the mix—the writer Ryan Cavan and mine as a director. It's successful because both visions were honored.
KM: When writing your own scripts what is the writing process like for you? How do you approach revision?
NL: I love to write. It is a joy. I don't feel bogged down by it. If I hit a block, it's a challenge and I like challenge. The thing that gets me down is when I lose interest in something that I have been working on for some time. Do you try to revive the interest or do you let it go? That's an obstacle for sure. For revisions I like to have a plan. I'll start with strengthening the peripheral characters and work my way towards the protagonist. I just read these great tips from James Schamus, who had some harebrained ideas for revisions I think I might try. Revisions are a drag, but he had these thoughts about standing a draft on its head that seemed very smart.
KM: When getting notes from producers—what do you do when you get a note that you don't like or agree with on your script?
NL: Only take good ideas and only from people you respect. You know your script and characters better than anyone. People will try to convince to take their note by saying things like "you're too close to the script". I say, "yes!" It is a good thing to be very close to your script. Also, when you are starting out people will tell you are suppose to consider all producer notes, because you are new. Like it is a manners thing. This is what I think: your script is the thing you are the expert on. Have the conversation, if only as a way to articulate why you don't agree with their note, but ultimately you make the choice. You are the CEO of your script and a CEO needs to believe in the company and lead it. No one calls a CEO 'precious' when they believe in their company, so don't let words like that deter you...Now, if you're a bad CEO, your company will fail and the public will let you know quite quickly and you won't be allowed to be CEO anymore! So, you have to be a good CEO! But, ultimately I'm all for screenwriters, respectfully, standing up for a choice. Most producers in the real world respect people who can articulate and communicate a vision. It is your responsibility to instill trust in your producers and funders about that choice, however. Also, that was a really long CEO metaphor. I hope it was clear...Also, if you are a gun-for-hire, it's a totally different thing. Then you apply the note and you find your way into the note. Case closed.
KM: What are you working on now?
NL: I just finished shooting my first feature called Hotel Congress. I had been in development on what was suppose to be my first feature The People Garden when this opportunity to make a film for no money presented itself. Hotel Congress is a film full of things I swore I would never do. I wrote it in 12 days. Very little revisions. Very talky. We shot the film in 40 hours. I star in it. I co-produced it. I co-directed it with Michel Kandinsky. Did I mention we shot the entire feature in 40 hours? We shot it on location in Tucson Arizona in a hotel called Hotel Congress. It is a romantic comedy-of-manners that we shot in 40 hours. We're in the edit now. We don't know if we're crazy, but so far we love it and think it's quite charming, actually. It was made with so much drive and love by an insular team of my favorite co-horts. It would be impossible not to love a feature film. That you shot. In forty hours. In the desert.
I hope to make my film The People Garden next year. With a smidge more time.
Feature Film, 2012
Hotel Congress Trailer from Sofia Francis on Vimeo.
Nadia Litz and Michel Kandinsky – Directors’ Statement
“Instead of bashfully wearing its microscopic budget as a badge of honor, Nadia Litz and Michel Kandinsky’s HOTEL CONGRESS aims for a genuine economy of craft. Ironically, in a project devised and executed in the shadows of the Canadian production stream, it’s a combination of old fashion virtues – a resonant location, clever camera placement, and a worthily wordy screenplay – that elevates Litz and Kandinsky’s first feature debut beyond a novelty item.” –Adam Nayman (Cinema Scope, The Grid)
Hotel Congress is a tender comedy-of-manners about two people who meet in a hotel famous for its nefarious associations to Depression era bank robber John Dillinger. Sofia and Francis try not to have an affair, while trying to find true love. The film comically deals with ethics in an unethical situation and could aptly be re-titled “What Happens When Cynics Try To Care.” Or “Why John Dillinger is Not A Bad Guy.”
The film was Shot for a $1000, in under 40 hours at the historic Hotel Congress in Tucson Arizona. Litz had been to the hotel 7 years prior to see the post-punk band Interpol play a show in the parking lot. She was struck by the dichotomous feeling of isolation and warmth the hotel had. The way the hotel felt stuck in time.
Nadia Litz (writer, co-director, co-producer, actress):
This film was under ‘willing duress’ from the start. I say willing because we wanted to prove a point in this very competitive market: you just need some smarts and an air tight work ethic to make an interesting film. Film at its best is about ideas and relatable emotion. Let that be the end of budget and time constraints.
When you start to think of what you can do for $1000, you quickly realize the script can save you. In writing this particular project, I focused on films that we all deeply admired the dialogue of (because dialogue doesn’t need lighting!) and why those films work. Obviously we love Mamet and Woody Allen and Hal Hartley and of recent years Lena Dunham comes to mind. We were going through a major Sturges period – hence the 4:3 - his films are simply shot, but beautifully romantic yet not at all ‘twee’….But, Whit Stillman is still the quintessential dialogue screenwriter for me. His characters are satirical, but his films are tender in a way that sneaks up on you. Could the Chris Eigeman character be more of a jerk, that you ultimately feel for, because a) he is truly stuck in his own jerk-ness and b)he’s the least hypocritical character in the Stillman world. I had him in mind for my character Sofia.
Stillman’s ideas and his modern philosophy (or philosophy of modernity) are what you care about in his films. Ideas and philosophies don’t inherently cost money so they bode well for indie filmmaking. That seemed like the highest bar to work towards.
I’m not into improvisation, shooting everything and finding the film in the edit for indie filmmaking. I think you need to be more meticulous and disciplined in the basics of the craft as an indie filmmaker
I wrote the film round the clock in twelve days. We were shooting three weeks later. Every word we said is in the original script. It felt mischievous to do it that way, to not belabor the process with second-guessing and rewrites. Just write it and shoot it.
When you don’t try to fit into a preconceived mold, the mode of storytelling becomes more interesting. You feel uncensored.
Michel Kandinsky: (co-director, co-producer)
For me, the film is about two people trapped by their own erudite, iconoclast self-awareness. They know what to say at the appropriate moment and how to say it in a clever way but this knowledge keeps them from feeling as deeply as they could.
I approach film as an intuitive medium, one in which too much thought gets in the way when time on set is spent trusting your intuition. It’s the opposite of what the characters in the film are doing, until they do it…And then once they trust in it they become the kind of love they aspire to, without even realizing it.
This was the first time I had co-directed anything. The remarkably short amount of time that we had to shoot this film kept us from too much discussion once we were on set. We simply didn’t have the ability to talk things out once we started shooting. We had to trust the script and our base instincts, keep out the temptation to over-think. I think that comes through in the finished product. There’s an energy there that I find very empowering. We knew we had to just start.
HOW TO RID YOUR LOVER OF A NEGATIVE EMOTION CAUSED BY YOU!
Short Film, 2010
Produced by the Canadian Film Centre
Directed By: Nadia Litz
Starring: Sarah Allen & Joe Cobden
Screenplay By: Ryan Cavan
Produced By: Heather K. Dahlstrom & Daniel Bekerman
Edited By: Alexandre-Nicholas Giffard
Director of Photography: Daniel Grant
Production Design By: Nazgol Goshtasbpour
Love can make us do weird things. Sadie does a weird thing. She does it to her boyfriend Dennis. Keep in mind she only wants what's best for both of them—a perfect relationship. It could be the perfect relationship, too, as long as nobody bleeds to death.
Rusty Talk Editor: