Norman Bissell writes poetry, essays and reviews which have been widely published in literary journals, books and newspapers and he is also an experienced teacher and lecturer. His poems have appeared in The Scotsman, Cencrastus, Classwork, island, Luing Newsletter, Open World and Scottish Book Collector, the booklet Circles and Lines and the books The Reckoning, Making Soup in a Storm (New Writing Scotland 24), The Dynamics of Balsa (New Writing Scotland 25) and the Scottish island poetry anthology These Islands, We Sing.
His first poetry collection Slate, Sea and Sky, A Journey from Glasgow to the Isle of Luing, accompanied by photographs by Oscar Marzaroli, was published by Luath Press in January 2008.
His articles on cultural issues and book and music reviews have been published in The Herald, The Scotsman, the Scottish Educational Journal, The Keelie, Cencrastus, Chapman, Edinburgh Review, island, Northwords, West Coast, Classwork, the Luing Newsletter, Northings, in the books The Reckoning and Grounding a World: Essays on the work of Kenneth White, and in the papers of the Scottish Trade Union Research Network.
He has collaborated with musicians such as Mark Sheridan, Margaret Bennett, Aidan O’Rourke and Mairi Macinnes including poetry and music performances at An Tobar on Mull and at the Moray Arts Centre. In 2011 he also collaborated in poetry readings with the Tabula Rasa Dance Company, archaeologists and artists at the Pier Arts Centre in Orkney and with the Three Wee Crows Theatre Company in Oban.
He was a student of Kenneth White’s at the University of Glasgow back in the 60s and was introduced by him to radical thinking on culture and society at meetings of the Jargon Group which White set up. Twenty years later he tracked White down in Brittany via the Sorbonne and established the Open World Poetics group in Glasgow in 1989 to discuss a whole range of cultural issues and to organise weekends in the great outdoors mainly at Allershaw Lodge near Elvanfoot. With Joe Murray, Gerry Loose and others he published three issues of Open World magazine in the early 1990s.
He was a founder member of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics in Edinburgh on Burns Night in 1995 which Tony McManus initiated and led until his death in April 2002. From August 2002 onwards he became its unpaid director and has organised numerous geopoetics events since then including two weekend events and a week-long Atlantic Islands Festival on Luing in 2009.
His MA Hons degree is in philosophy and history from the University of Glasgow and for 17 years he was principal teacher of history at Braidhurst High School in Motherwell. He also gave lectures on teachers and the law to undergraduate and post-graduate student teachers at the former St Andrew’s College of Education and the University of Glasgow, and on geopoetics at the University of Edinburgh Office of Lifelong Learning. From 1991 to 1996 he was the full-time Secretary of the Lanarkshire Association of the Educational Institute of Scotland and from 1996 until 2007 he worked as a full-time EIS Area Officer providing advice, representation, and training to EIS members working in nursery, primary, secondary, further education and initially higher education in much of west central Scotland. In June 2010 he was awarded the honorary degree of Fellowship of the Educational Institute of Scotland in the special category ‘for signal service to education.’
He writes full-time from his home on the Isle of Luing in Argyll where he is Vice-Chairman of the Isle of Luing Community Trust and Chairman of the Luing Horticultural Society. He is currently working on a feature film script and memoir. His other interests include ecology, natural history, walking and chess, having once played for junior Scotland in the Glorney Cup.