Patrice Desbiens

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Patrice Desbiens is a Franco-Ontarian poet who was briefly associated with Montreal guitarist René Lussier in the late '90s. His works (13 collections published by the end of the 1990s, mostly in French)…
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Patrice Desbiens is a Franco-Ontarian poet who was briefly associated with Montreal guitarist René Lussier in the late '90s. His works (13 collections published by the end of the 1990s, mostly in French) have evolved from a Franco-Ontarian identity quest to more universal themes, but always remained anchored in a poetic, slightly surreal, and humor-tinged street-level vocabulary, making him one of the most interesting urban poets.

Desbiens was born in Timmins, Ontario, to francophone parents. He went to a French elementary school and an English high school. After a year working as a journalist for the Toronto Express, he turned to poetry, getting published in dozens of magazines and reviews including Estuaire, Exit, the Hamilton Express, and the Poetry Toronto Newsletter. His first collection, Ici ("Here"), came out in 1974. In 1981, he published L'Homme Invisible/The Invisible Man, a poetic narration written in parallel French and English (not translations, two different "interpretations"). Under its cynicism, it is a severe look at the Franco-Ontarian quest for identity; trapped between the Anglo-Canadian and Quebec cultures. Even though Quebecers fight for the recognition of their distinct society from the massively anglophone Canada, Franco-Canadians are shut out from the process and from other provinces. The book is now generally considered as one of the finest in Franco-Ontarian poetry.

Since then, Desbiens has lead a marginal but increasingly successful career. Invited to the Quebec City book fair in 1988, he decided to move there (he later settled in Montreal). The album Le Trésor de la Langue by experimental guitarist René Lussier prompted him to contact the musician. A friendship developed and, in 1996, Lussier asked Desbiens to participate in a recital with free improvisation. He recruited saxophonist Jean Derome, drummer Pierre Tanguay, and keyboardist Guillaume Dostaler. Under the name Les Moyens du Bord ("Available Means"), they performed a few concerts in Montreal, Quebec, and Ontario. The CD Patrice Desbiens et les Moyens du Bord was released by Ambiances Magnétiques in 1999. The group only performed a few more times, usually for specific events of a socio-political nature. But it is singer/songwriter Richard Desjardins who gave Desbiens his biggest exposure by recording the poem "Caisse Pop" (the story of a man literally putting his beating heart on the desk of a bank clerk; he is told it doesn't count since there is no signature) on his 2000 CD Boom Boom.