Ken Norris’s latest collection of poetry, Vishyun, takes its title (and its spelling) from bill bissett’s ground-breaking living with th vishyun (1974). Inspired by bissett’s poetry, poetics, and visual art, Norris takes his own visionary look at the topographical and social landscapes of an ever-changing, never-changing Southeast Asia.
I don’t know what more you could want from a book of poems than what you get in Ken Norris’ Vishyun, his newest and best collection to date. In it we find a poet at the peak of his powers—emotionally, imaginatively—unaffected as he is, as he has always been, by fashion, by theory, by the empty cleverness that bruises too much of contemporary poetry.
Vishyun is a book that holds much wisdom, healing, humour, honesty and sheer joy, by one who has come to terms with mistakes, illusions and maya, yet still engages in the unknown shape of time that remains in this incarnation.
One section of Vishyun is titled “Clarity,” and that is what has always made Ken Norris’s poetry nice to read. Now the older he grows and the more books he writes, the better he gets. Every generation needs a poet who speaks plain and carefully. You know the way you look carefully when you’re in a foreign country? Well right here Norris is ‘in a foreign land again.’
Ken Norris was born in New York City in 1951. He came to Canada in the early 1970s, to escape Nixon-era America and to pursue his graduate education. He completed an M.A. at Concordia University and a Ph.D. in Canadian Literature at McGill University. He became a Canadian citizen in 1985. Norris is Professor Emeritus at the University of Maine, where he taught Canadian Literature and Creative Writing for thirty-three years. He currently resides in Toronto.