Henry Beissel is a poet, playwright, essayist, translator, editor and distinguished professor emeritus. Beissel immigrated from Cologne, Germany to Canada in 1951 and became Canadian citizen in 1956. He obtained his M.A. from the University of Toronto in 1960 and first taught English literature in Germany and the West Indies before joining the English department of Sir George Williams University in 1966 as Assistant Professor. He would help develop the Creative Writing program in the early 1970’s before getting his tenure and becoming Full Professor in 1979. His teaching centered mostly on medieval and modern periods literature. Beissel retired from Concordia University in 1995. He is the author of 18 volumes of poetry, 10 plays and numerous essays and translations.
- From 1963 to 1969, Henry Beissel was the editor of the independent literary journal EDGE he founded in Edmonton.
- Beissel is the author of ‘Inuk and the Sun’, a play that premiered in Stratford in 1973. Translated in many languages, it has been performed around the world. The play would eventually become the opera ‘Inook’ in 1986, with music composed by Music department Professor Wolfgang Rottenberg. Excerpts of the piece would later be performed at the Inukshuk: A Dialogue among Cultures event, held at Concordia in June 1999.
- Beissel was the chair of the Irving Layton for Creative Writing awards committee in 1992.
- Beissel edited ‘Raging Like a Fire’, a Vehicle Press ‘Festschrift’ publication celebrating Irving Layton’s 80th birthday, in 1993.
- In 1994, Beissel was awarded a literary prize in the memory of Walter Bauer in recognition for his services to Bauer’s work and for his own literary oeuvre. The award was presented in Merseburg, Germany.
- Beissel was awarded the First Prize in Poetry for ‘The Jade Canoe’ by the Surrey International Writer’s Conference, in 2006.
- In 2008, he received the Naji Naaman Literary Prize for ‘Where Shall the Birds Fly?’. He also became an honorary member of the Maison Naaman pour la Culture in Beirut, Lebanon.