Henry Beissel

Henry Beissel

Poet, playwright, fiction writer, translator and editor with over 30 books published
Henry Beissel is a poet, playwright, fiction writer, translator and editor with over 30 books published, 20 of them collections of poetry that include his epic Seasons of Blood, the lyrical Stones to Harvest, and his celebration of Canada, Cantos North, reprinted for our 150th anniversary last year in a bilingual edition with a brilliant French translation by Arlette Francière.

Critics and fellow poets have acclaimed his work. Patrick White wrote: "Henry Beissel is undoubtedly a Canadian poet of the first rank. He writes with the clarity and precision demanded of a strict imagist, and yet manages, without overburdening the issue, to give the image symbolic weight." The late F. R. Scott said about his Cantos North: "The Canadian imagination, as elusive as the Canadian identity, is nevertheless a reality. Henry Beissel finds its constant source of strength and renewal in the wonder of our northland... This epic is the first to see it in its entirety, as a matrix which binds the whole together in a national mythology." And Keith Garebian declared that "Seasons of Blood is one of the most powerful, moving, lyrical triumphs in modern poetry."

As a playwright Henry came to international fame with Inuk and the Sun, which premiered at the Stratford Festival in 1973. Thomas Willis, the theatre critic for the Chicago Tribune, went to see the première and wrote: "`If you could have your pick of the Stratford Ontario season for an opening in Chicago next week, what would you choose?' asked a friend. The answer was easy. Not Shakespeare, Goldsmith or Gogol... What I would give a lot to see here next week, next year, any time, is Inuk and the Sun ... as beautiful and magnificent as Homer." The play has been translated into French, German, Chinese, Japanese, Polish, Turkish, Hebrew a. o.

Henry taught English literature at various universities in Canada and abroad. His special fields were medieval and modern literatures. In 1966 he joined the English faculty at Sir George Williams University, later renamed Concordia University, in Montreal. He founded a Creative Writing program at Concordia that still flourishes today. Upon his retirement in 1996, Henry was honoured with the title of Distinguished Emeritus Professor.

Henry’s most recent books include the autobiographical cycle of poems, Coming to Terms with a Child (Guernica Editions, 2011), his exploration of the micro- and macrocosm through the eyes of modern science in Fugitive Horizons (Guernica Editions, 2013), his global perspectives in Sightlines (Guernica editions, 2016) and his collection of 364 haiku, What if Zen Gardens... (Guernica Editions, 2017). He is now living in Ottawa with his wife Arlette Francière, the literary translator and painter, who has provided many of his books with stunning covers.

For further information: www.henrybeissel.com