About the Author – Gregory Betts
Gregory Betts is an experimental poet with collections published in Canada, the United States, Australia, and Ireland. He is most acknowledged for If Language (2005), the world’s first collection of paragraph-length anagrams, and The Others Raisd in Me (2009), 150 poems carved out of Shakespeare’s sonnet 150. His other books explore conceptual, collaborative, and concrete poetics. He has performed these works hundreds of times in many countries, including at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games as part of the “Cultural Olympiad.” He is a professor of Canadian and Avant-Garde Literature at Brock University, where he has produced two of the most exhaustive academic studies of avant-garde writing in Canada, Avant-Garde Canadian Literature: The Early Manifestations (2013—shortlisted finalist for the Gabrielle-Roy Prize) and Finding Nothing: The VanGardes, 1959-1975 (2021—winner of the Basil Stuart-Stubbs Prize), both with University of Toronto Press. He is the President of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English (ACCUTE), curator of the bpNichol.ca Digital Archive, and Associate Director of the Social Justice Research Initiative. His most recent book is Foundry (2021), a collection of visual poems inspired by a font named after a 15th century poet. He lives in St. Catharines, Ontario.
About the Author – Gary Barwin
Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, and multidisciplinary artist and the author of 26 books including Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted: The Ballad of Motl the Cowboy which won the Canadian Jewish Literary Award and Bird Arsonist (with Tom Prime) His national bestselling novel Yiddish for Pirates won the Leacock Medal for Humour and the Canadian Jewish Literary Award, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and was long listed for Canada Reads. His interactive writing installation using old typewriters and guitar processors was featured during 2016-2017 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Forthcoming books include The Most Charming Creatures (ECW Press, Fall 2022), Duck Eats Yeast, Quacks, Explodes; Man Loses Eye, with Lillian Nećakov (Guernica, Spring 2023) and Portal (Potential Books, forthcoming.) A finalist for the National Magazine Awards (Poetry), he is four-time recipient of Hamilton Book of the Year, has also received the Hamilton Arts Award for Literature and has co-won the bpNichol Chapbook Award and the K.M. Hunter Arts Award. He was one of the judges for the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize. A PhD in music composition, Barwin has been Writer-in-Residence at University of Toronto (Scarborough), Laurier, Western University, McMaster University and the Hamilton Public Library, Hillfield Strathallan College, Sheridan College and Young Voices E-Writer-in-Residence at the Toronto Public Library. He has taught creative writing at a number of colleges and universities, to at-risk youth in Hamilton and currently mentors through the Vancouver Manuscript Intensive. His writing has been published in hundreds of magazines and journals internationally—from Readers Digest to Granta and Poetry to the Walrus—and his writing, music, media works and visuals have been presented and broadcast internationally. Though born in Northern Ireland to South African parents of Ashenazi descent, Barwin lives in Hamilton, Ontario. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario and has never been Governor of Louisiana. garybarwin.com
The title of our book, The Fabulous Op has nothing whatsoever to do with its anagrams, “about hopefuls” or “hub of foetal soup,” “Uh, upbeat fools,” “push taboo fuel,” or even, “Afoul pub ethos.” Rather, it is a collaborative poem which we—uh, upbeat fools—began by asking our social media contacts to post lines of poetry that they keep memorized, wanting the project to be grounded in the soil of the brain, the canon of the individual as sieved through their experience. We considered how the transmission of DNA is affected by the experiences of those who it both creates and describes through epigenetic processes. We imagined the canon (and our culture) to be a kind of genetic code who’s transmission is similarly affected by “the experiences of those who it both creates and describes” (unacknowledged source).
The broken lines, misshapen quotes, and misremembered poems that came back from our contacts were, not surprisingly, overwhelmingly canonical poetry. Blast the Canon! We started from this hub of foetal soup and began a process of distillation, mutation, and dilution of those source lines until we arrived at a kind of homeopathic collection of poems filled with the memory of the charge but no substance of the canon. We cooked the books so that we arrived at a reduction ad absurdum. A Fabulo Soup. A hopeful stock, a taboo fuel.
Praise for the Book
The Fabulous Op is a collaboration of vocative anarchic beauty, with no mild intent. As Barwin and Betts write, ‘I contradicts my multitude / every atom tongue of it flowers.’ Within is the deadly-serious play, the ‘cruelest math,’ of the poet as ‘permanent tourist.’ An ode to language, here is a poetry which undoes the memory of its sources, and creates melodies which unnerve, celebrate and reimagine. A triumph of homage and daring — a delight.
- Paul Perry, author of The Garden, winner of the Hennessy Prize for Irish Literature, Director of UCD Creative Writing
What a great concept and book! The Fabulous Op is full of surprises. Gary Barwin and Gregory Betts cleverly distil canonical language into gentle traces of lines that once were. The collaborative reverberations of misremembered poems give shape to the unreliability of memory and precision of words as a meditative grasp. Alongside the page poems, intervals of blackbirds that nibble on constellations and mechanical daffodils enhance rhythm and produce further meaning. Playful poetry for the curious ones!
– Astra Papachristodoulou, author of Stargazing
I love it. It’s wonderful. From the sieve of the brain poetry bursts forth, downwards, and into the fingers of Betts and Barwin, where o blue mourning of apoemology they do something angular clever brutish. Methodologically so rich, mixing shadow canons with bright broken texts and visual poems aslant and illustrative both. It’s a rare book, really, collaborative, transformatory, rangey, yet quite careful in its way, like a space crow observing time itself. Read it and eat nature.
Steven J. Fowler, author of Come and See the Songs of Strange Days, founder of the European Poetry Festival