Gregory  Betts

Photo: Gregory Betts Photo: Charles Earl, www.charlesearl.com
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Gregory Betts is a poet, editor, essayist, and teacher born in Vancouver, raised in Toronto, now living in St. Catharines, ON. He is the author of four books of poetry including If Language (BookThug 2005), Haikube (BookThug 2006), The Others Raisd in Me (Pedlar Press 2009), and Psychic Geographies and Other Topics (Quattro Press 2010; also as an e-book) as well as several chapbooks and various bits of ephemera.

His first published poem was an anagrammatical translation of a short poem by bpNichol, appearing in the anthology TTbpN2 (Housepress 1999). Betts' work has consistently troubled individual authorship through such mechanisms as anagrams, collaboration, and response-text writing. His first chapbook, All You Need to Know (House Press 2000), "plundered" poems from Toronto's Yellow Pages. His most recent chapbooks, including The Curse of Canada
(above/ground Press 2008), "plunder" poems from acknowledged single authors to create new works (see the "plunderverse" manifesto below for more). His essays, poems, stories, and manifestos have been taught in schools, colleges, and universities across Canada, the United States, and a small handful of European countries.


If Language quotes a paragraph-length section of Steve McCaffery's essay "Language Writing" and presents 56 perfect anagrams of the paragraph, all with 525 letters and 56 letter "i"s, that respond directly and indirectly to McCaffery's ideas. The book was a shortlisted finalist for the Fitzpatrick O'Dinn Award, and was reprinted in 2008.


Haikube is the product of a collaboration with Toronto sculptor Matt Donovan and designer/typographer Hallie Siegel. The object itself is a movable cube (modelled after the Rubik's Cube) with an original poem by Betts on each of the six sides. The engraved letters are raised and reversed, such that this poetry generation machine also functions as a printing press. The book contains the original six poems, alongside a small sampling of the 144 billion poems possible in the machine.


The Others Raisd in Me "plunders" William Shakespeare's sonnet 150 by deleting words and letters until new poems are literally sculpted from the marble of the original. This process is repeated 150 times, concocting a diverse intellectual history of Western civilization spanning the 400 years since the sonnet's were first published.


Psychic Geographies turns to Cicero's theory of rhetoric to help confront the ugly emptiness of contemporary political and academic language. Using Cicero as a "sniff test" to detect the slag of linguistic habits, the book then deploys Situationist techniques to survey and satirize the linguistic wasteland of contemporary rhetoric.


He has edited editions of poetry by W.W. E. Ross, Raymond Knister, and Lawren Harris, and recently finished a critical edition of selected stories, essays, and manifestos by Bertram Brooker, Canada's first avant-gardist. His essay “Non compos mentis: A Meta-Historical Survey of the Historiographic Narratives of Louis Riel’s ‘Insanity’” was awarded the 2010 Jean-Michel Lacroix Award by the International Journal of Canadian Studies as the best essay on a Canadian topic.


Betts is the co-editor of PRECIPICe literary magazine, and curates the Grey Borders Reading Series. He lives in St. Catharines where he teaches Canadian literature at Brock University.

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Created: Wednesday, September 10, 2008 Updated: Tuesday, July 06, 2010

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