New Star Blogs

Reading, writing, and Bowering

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George Bow­er­ing recent­ly sat down with our own Frank Davis to shoot the breeze about his new book, Writ­ing and Read­ing, released Novem­ber 28.

FD: New Star Books has pub­lished what must be your ump­ty-sev­enth, at least, book, Writ­ing and Read­ing.  (We should men­tion that Mark Mushet took the cov­er pho­to.)  What are you up in this one?

George Bow­er­ing: I guess I tried to widen the def­i­n­i­tion of what con­sti­tutes a book of lit­er­ary essays. There is a tiny piece about a writer whose name is almost as long as the essay about her. There is an account­ing of the 100 books I read dur­ing 1967. One hun­dred for the cen­te­nary — get it? There is an expla­na­tion of Apollinaire’s role in Van­cou­ver poet­ry. Send in your ideas.

FD: Most read­ers would think of you, first and sec­ond, as a poet and a writer of fic­tion; or as a pop­u­lar his­to­ri­an. One of your ear­ly books, Al Pur­dy (Copp Clark, 1970), is actu­al­ly a crit­i­cal appraisal of a writer who was quite unlike you, on the page at least, but who became a life-long friend; Al and his wife Eurithe remained pret­ty good com­pan­ions to you and Jean Baird for many, many years. Much more recent­ly there was Words, Words, Words (2010), also pub­lished by New Star Books; and you’ve done a few in between those.

GB: Eleven books of crit­i­cal essays. I couldn’t help myself. bpNi­chol said my sto­ries are like essays ans my essays are like sto­ries. A few are both.

FD: Do you feel there are parts you can reach with one form, be it poet­ry, fic­tion, or crit­i­cal non-fic­tion, that the oth­er forms just don’t get to?

GB: I have often won­dered about that myself. It is arbi­trary in some cas­es. Take a look at my essay on Mar­garet Atwood’s Sur­fac­ing. It’s about that thing that Roland Barthes called the desire for the author. An audi­ence of Eng­lish profs in Aus­tralia loved it––and me.

FD: What can read­ers expect from your new book?

GB: The wis­dom of old age.

FD: At your age most writ­ers have hung up the cleats a long time ago. But you’re still going strong. You’re pret­ty much the Satchel Paige of Cana­di­an lit­er­a­ture. To what do you attribute your long career? Any immi­nent plans to retire, á là Philip Roth?

GB: I keep find­ing note books in which I have jot­ted notes about pos­si­ble books.

FD: I’ve just fin­ished read­ing Rebec­ca Wigod’s excel­lent biog­ra­phy of you, He Speaks Vol­umes. I learned a lot about you from her book. Among oth­er things, that you’re a slip­pery dog. But also, that you tend to have a few projects on the go at any one time. What’s in the pipeline, or, to use a less offen­sive expres­sion, chute, right now?

GB: There’s that series of respons­es to 100 poems. I have done just over half. There’s my rewrit­ing of Gertrude Stein’s Ten­der But­tons. I have almost fin­ished a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries, some of which take place in [sur­prise!] my home town dur­ing child­hood and youth. I have a sequence of poems about a girl named Trish, who keeps hear­ing peo­ple rime her name.

FD: Any­thing else you’d like to add for our read­ers?

GB: What do you think? Should I try to rewrite all the books I havent pub­lished?