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


Billy Little, Zonko, lived on Hornby Island, about four hours, including two ferries from Victoria, BC. Born NYC 1943, US Army(E-5)60-63, SUNYAB 1967-1970, student of Creeley, Duncan, Barth, Fiedler, Clarke, Canada 1974, editor, Presence, Tens, Press of the Black Flag Raised, RAW, publisher, Black Owle Press, Prose and Verses Press, My Dukes broadsides, Dojo books.

‘please don't use spellcheck on my work, as Will Rogers said, "never trust a man who only knows how to spell a word one way."’


nobody knows billy little, Zonko, they say he lives in Nowhere, B.C., he could be writing poems in your name next week. Combat Plagiarism is a project he's currently working on wherein he writes the best poem he could possibly write that day and signs your name or Gerry Gilbert's name, or Pierre Joris or Lily Brik or Duncan McNaughton or David McFadden.

billy little

born on the birthday of eecummings billy cut his wisdom teeth beside Paul Blackburn and Anne Waldman shouting poems to crowds from the back of flatbed trucks in downtown manhattan reborn at St.marks church down the block from Auden's flat Diane Wakoski was his midwife Joel Oppenheimer was his father confessor editor Poets for Peace (with Lyn Banker and Gary Youree) Creeley's student at Buffalo, Duncan's what a class, Butterick, Deloach, Duncan McNaughton, Fred Wah, Al Glover, Michael Davidson, Lewis MacAdams, Robert Hass, John Wieners,studied Blake with Jack Clarke, Dante with Leslie Feidler edited Presence Magazine which featured Ferlinghetti and Creeley beside the first publication of Kathy Acker's edited TENS magazine work by Dorn, Olson, Raworth, Hollo, Gilfillan, Victor Coleman, Penny Chalmers, Robin Blaser and Sharon Thesen, Hilton Obenzinger cofounded Press of The Black Flag raised (with Bob Rose) published Chief Joseph, dhlawrence, and the broadside edition of John Weiners Asylum Poems Took on the moniker Zonko 1971 partly in response to the ingenuousness of certain editors who will accept your work and then expect to be published in your rag in return. an early fan remarked,"your poems make me zonko" provoking the eureka response "my poems make ME Zonko" Duncan told me he'd gotten a postcard from Pound: "which one of you youngsters has the courage to publish your poems anonymously." The pen name proved an ennabler,a form of self permission, the fear of personal rejection falling away. I still publish under three or four names, not to mention my combat plagiarism series. published hundreds of poems, stories, essays, reviews, chapbooks, broadsides. taught creative writing at Emily Carr, SFU, Capilano College, Hundreds of performances at St. Marks, at Buffalo, at Tufts, the Western Front, the Parachute Centre, the Vancouver Art Gallery, Langara College, David Thompson College,in Victoria, in Terrace, in Calgary, in Toronto, in Chase, in Nanaimo, on Sunset Beach, Perform occasionally with the violin player, Jim Munro and the sax genius Bill Smith. 


a letter from Robin Blaser

Dr. Ronald Bond, Dean
Faculty of Humanities
University of Calgary

June 3, 1993

Dear Ron,
    I'd like to wholeheartedly recommend Billy Little for your writer in residence. Zonko is a very wise poet - he is not afraid to play the fool. Like many of Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan's students at the University of Buffalo (and my own here at Simon Fraser) he is a voracious reader. I'm often suprised at how current his reading in philosophy and criticism is, not to mention the wide range of interest in world poetry, rumanian women, polish women,irish women (where does he find these books, I wonder, but of course I know he's spent most of his life working in bookstores and libraries.

    He's had a major influence on an entire generation of younger writers here in Vancouver through his own work and his editing, publishing, and organizing. He is a jokester, a trickster, a gentle deflator of the big ego, and evocative poet, and enthraller, a rythm master, very much a poet in the oral tradition. Once you've heard Billy read you remember it for a lifetime. He'd be an excellent choice for your writer in residence. Frankly I've been thankful for his friendship and informed encouragement and support over the past twenty-five years. He's well respected in his generation. He's done a lot of work on the radio with Gerry Gilbert, he likes to share his enthusiasm for new writing whether it's poetry, fiction or essays. And sometimes his perceptions about other writing is so precise I have to laugh out loud.

Robin Blaser


Ink: Selected Poems
"Over the past three and a half decades Billy Little has been an important unit in the west coast writing scene. Poet, collector, critic and bookseller, he's the ballpoint that stirs the coffee. He's also my personal model in matters sartorial." --George Bowering
Alias, disguise and comic misdirection have always been the tools of the guerrilla poet, Billy Little. In his public persona of Zonko, he was known as the most frequent reader at the Vancouver anti-war rallies of the 1970s. He claims to be the illegitimate son of poets Paul Blackburn and Diane Wakoski, but he has also claimed to be a Buddhist lesbian. He was born in any case in New York City in 1943, an early blooming baby boomer, and received his early education there. He read his first poem at a family gathering at the age of 11, and says he has been hooked by the attention he received ever since.
He was in the U.S. military from 1960 to 1963 and is an ardent anti-militarist today. He was a board member of the St. Mark's Poetry Project in its very early days. He went from college in New York City to the State University at Buffalo, where he joined forces with the New American Poets of the first and second generation in a poetry project which is still on-going. He claims as friends, mentors, and sometime collaborators the North American poetry luminaries Joel Oppenheimer, Anne Waldman, Ted Berrigan, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Robin Blaser, John Barth, Jack Clarke, Robert Hogg, Michael Davidson, Bob Hass, Eddie Kissam, Fred Wah, George Butterick, and John Wieners. In other words, he's really been around in the world of North American poetry.
Since his arrival in Vancouver in 1973, he has lived a life of constant and productive service to the Vancouver communities of poets. Octopus Books was legendary in the 1970s as a poetry venue in the city. Although he has never been a fame-seeker, his influence as a bookseller, poetry savant, publisher, organizer, poet and performer is pervasive on the west coast. For the last several years of his life, Billy has been living on Hornby Island, an idyllic island off the coast of mainland British Columbia, home to many artists and writers.


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 Queen's 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.”

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). 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" 


"Now that, dear reader, is an obituary. That is how, with good humour and panache, we should all have the courage to go out.
Of course, Little had an advantage in expressing himself: He was dedicated to the written word for most of his 65 years. Raised in New York, he was a teenage U.S. army soldier who quickly morphed into a peacenik after getting out in 1963. He became interested in the poets of the Beat Generation and the Black Mountain school, and eventually drifted to B.C. in the early '70s: Hornby, Comox Valley, Vancouver. He was notable as the poet Zonko at anti-'Nam protests in Vancouver, where he had a couple of bookshops, worked at the SFU library, wrote and published. "He knew more about poetry than most of the poets I know, and I know most of them," said his friend Jamie Reid this week.
So, yes, Billy Little, Zonko  had a leg up when it came to writing his own exit lines."

Jack Knox, Times Colonist February 22, 2009