My article, “‘to forget in a body’ Mosaical Consciousness & Materialist Avant-Gardism in bill bissett & Milton Acorn’s unpublished I Want to Tell You Love,” has been published in issue 222 of Canadian Literature. I began working on this project at Brock University as part of my Master’s degree, which was supervised by the inimitable Gregory Betts. The collaboration between bissett and Acorn is important. I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to point to it and work through it in this forum.
The article is featured in some good company including Hannah McGregor, Jeffrey Aaron Weingarten, and Lee Skallerup Bessette whom I met while working on the project. An issue can be ordered from Canadian Literature.
In 1965 bill bissett and Milton Acorn completed a book-length manuscript of poetry entitled I Want to Tell You Love. Though the collaboration was significant for both authors, it remains unpublished because editors believed Acorn’s economic free verse poetry and bissett’s radical literary formalist experiments were incompatible. This article returns to this little known manuscript and, despite the claims of publishers and editors, identifies the unifying factors of the text. This paper argues that by pairing their incongruous voices, bissett and Acorn formulate a materialist avant-gardism–an alliance of the political and aesthetic branches of the avant-garde that theorists such as Renato Poggioli have identified as distinct and discrete. This union creates a hybrid form similar to what Roland Barthes refers to as a Text (as opposed to a work), which gestures toward a new form of consciousness–mosaical consciousness–and offers a response to the turbulent sociopolitical climate created by global capitalist modernity.