"Alias, disguise and misdirection have always been the tools of the guerrilla poet, Billy Little." -- Jamie Reid

"His comic vision is so large that it encompasses and increases our life." -- Judith Copithorne

Following his arrival in Canada in 1973, Billy Little, in his public persona as Zonko, was one of the most frequent readers at anti-war rallies in Vancouver during the Seventies. Having served in the U.S. military from 1960 to 1963, he has remained an ardent anti-militarist for more than forty years. Born in New York City in 1943, Billy Little has claimed to be the illegitimate son of New York poets Paul Blackburn and Diane Wakoski, but, then, he has also claimed to be a Buddhist lesbian.

After Little attended Queens College in New York, he went to the State University at Buffalo where he was directly influenced by the "New American Poets." His poetry associates have included Joel Oppenheimer, Anne Waldman, Ted Berrigan, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Robin Blaser, John Barth, Jack Clarke, Robert Hogg, Michael Davidson, Bob Haas, Eddie Kissam, Fred Wah, George Butterick and John Weiners.

"In other words," says his long-time Vancouver cohort Jamie Reid, "he's really been around. Although he is no fame-seeker, his influence as a bookseller, poetry savant, publisher, organizer, poet and performer is pervasive on the west coast."

Billy Little and Renee Rodin were the mainstays behind R2B2 Books in Kitsilano, a bookstore known for is poetry readings. As a tribute to Billy Little's indefatigable activity on behalf of poetry and poets, his friends and colleagues cooperatively produced St. Ink: Selected Poems Billy Little (Capilano University Editions 2008 $16). The volume includes tributes from George Bowering, Carole Chambers, Judith Copithorne, Pierre Coupey, Goh Poh Seng, Lionel Kearns, Matt Little, Gordon Payne, Jamie Reid, Renee Rodin, Rhoda Rosenfeld, Trudy Rubenfeld, George Stanley, Victoria Walker and Hillel Wright, among others.

Billy Little was also the author of several out-of-print poetry chapbooks. He died of abdominal cancer on Hornby Island about 5 a.m. on New Year's Day, 2009. "He lived the months that were left to him with great courage and good humour," wrote Jamie Reid, "sometimes in tears, he told me once, that he should have to leave the world, the life and the people that he loved with such passion and devotion. The people at his bedside near the end, his son Matt Little, Gordon Payne and his caregiver, Colleen Work, confirmed that through his last hours, though he could not speak, he was clearly smiling."

Billy Little wrote his own obituary:

"after decades of passion, dedication to world peace and justice, powerful friendships, recognition, being loved undeservedly by extraordinary women, a close and powerful relationship with a strong, handsome, capable, thoughtful son Matt, a never ending stream of amusing ideas, affections shared with a wide range of creative men and women, a long residence in the paradisical landscape of hornby island, success after success in the book trade, fabulous meals, unmeasurable inebriation, dancing beyond exhaustion, satori after satori, billy little regrets he's unable to schmooze today. in lieu of flowers please send a humongous donation to the war resisters league.

I'd like my tombstone to read:

billy little
hydro is too expensive

but I'd like my mortal remains to be set adrift on a flaming raft off chrome island"


ST. INK: SELECTED POEMS $16 978-0-9810122-1-6

[BCBW 2009] "Poetry"