The poem “The Mouth” written by bpNichol is littered with ambiguity. You could pick any line in any stanza and find something with a double meaning. In the second stanza, Nichol writes: “You were never supposed to talk when it was full. It was better to keep it shut if you had nothing to say. You were never supposed to shoot it off. It was better to be seen than heard. ” Besides the obvious oral fixation he has, what does he mean when he says this?
It seems as though he has been silenced before in his life, and he has used poetry as an escape from being muted. These all are orders that a parent might say to their children, and so perhaps Nichol is talking about the way he has been taught that the mouth is a negative place that should remain closed and quiet. He hints at this by saying: “You were never supposed to mouth-off, give them any of your lip, turn up your nose at them, give them a dirty look, an evil eye or a baleful stare. It is obvious that Nichol’s oral fixation was forcefully suppressed as a child.
Thus, we shouldn’t be surprised that he wrote a poem about almost every possible action the mouth can perform. Also, it is interesting that Nichol chose to open the poem with this passage. It sets the mood that the mouth is a disobedient place, and he spends the rest of the poem explaining several bad memories and problems his mouth has gotten him into.