Explore our two-part exhibition on renowned visual poet, bpNichol

Photograph of bp Nichol's office
View Collecting the Collector & Processing the Process: A Two-Part Exhibition of the bpNichol Fonds, on display on the 3rd floor and 7th floor at W.A.C. Bennett Library.


Minimalist line drawn portrait of bp Nichol



chain of thot, chain of images, chain of events

  bpNichol, The Martyrology, Book 5

About the exhibition

Barrie Phillip Nichol, better known as bpNichol, was born in Vancouver in 1944. From the 1960s through to the 1980s, he led a prolific career as a writer of prose and poetry; the founder of two small presses, ganglia and grOnk; and a performer in the influential sound poetry quartet, The Four Horsemen. Today, Nichol remains a key figure in the history of the Canadian avant-garde.

Collecting the Collector & Processing the Process, a two-part archival exhibition, unveils Nichol’s process as both a creator and a collector, and traces the generative intersection at which these two roles converge. This exhibition is curated by Donald Shipton and Emma Metcalfe Hurst.


What's on display?

On the third floor of the Bennett Library, materials from Nichol’s various collections are on display. This includes a selection of his robots, instructional manuals for toys, a menagerie of H’s, and selections from his Dick Tracy comic book collection—all alongside other playful projects found in his archives. Together, these highlight the diverse media in which he found inspiration for his genre-blending literature.

Displayed on the seventh floor, at the entrance to Special Collections and Rare Books, is an exhibition centering Book 5 of The Martyrology, one part in a series that Nichol worked on for well over a decade. From conception to draft, to proof, to publication, the various archival documents on display track the production of this seminal text. If the exhibition at the library’s entrance focuses on what Nichol sourced for inspiration, the motivating question of this second part is how: how he organized his ideas, and how he brought them to bear upon the page.

bp Nichol's collection of materials all depicting his favourite letter, H

Draft excerpt from Book 5 of bp Nichol's Martyrology

Action figures and robots from bp Nichol's collection

Visit both displays to learn more about bpNichol’s creative process and to view selections from his diverse archival collections!

About the curators

Donald Shipton is an MA student in the Department of English at Simon Fraser University. His scholarly interests reside primarily in contemporary Canadian literature and the archive. He is currently studying the chapbooks and ephemera of bpNichol, held in the Contemporary Literature Collection at SFU, with particular attention to their materiality and the possibility of replicating this in digital space.

Emma Metcalfe Hurst is a writer, curator, and researcher who is currently in her third year studying archives and librarianship (MASLIS) at the UBC iSchool. Her areas of interest include community, artist, and performing arts archives, public programming, and intellectual property rights. She has previously worked at Access Gallery, Nanaimo Art Gallery, grunt gallery, Western Front, Artspeak, Unit/Pitt, Co-op Radio, the UBC Music, Art, and Architecture Library, and the Museum of Anthropology. She recently launched the oral history and community archives project, Coming Out of Chaos: A Vancouver Dance Story, and was the project coordinator for Recollective: Vancouver Independent Archives Week. She is currently working as an archivist for VIVO Media Arts Centre and Karen Jamieson Dance.

September 1 - November 4
3rd floor: 10am-4:30pm M-F / 7th floor: M-Su 8:00am-10:00pm
3rd floor and 7th floor, W.A.C. Bennett Library (SFU Burnaby)

Contact for further information

For more information, contact Special Collections and Rare Books at scrb@sfu.ca

Selected publications by bp Nichol on display and for loan

Want to learn more about bpNichol's work? Check out some of his books from the Library's collections beside the Collecting the Collector display on the 3rd floor of the Library: