Bowering, George (Henry)

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BOWERING, George (Henry)

Nationality: Canadian. Born: Keremeos, British Columbia, 1 December 1936. Education: South Okanagan High School, Oliver, British Columbia; Victoria College, British Columbia, 1953–54; University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.A. 1960, M.A. 1963; University of Western Ontario, London. Military Service: Royal Canadian Air Force, 1954–57. Family: Married Angela Luoma in 1962: one daughter. Career: Has worked for the British Columbia Forest Service and for the Federal Department of Agriculture. Assistant professor, University of Calgary, Alberta, 1963–66; writer-inresidence, 1967–68, and assistant professor of English, 1968–72, Sir George Williams University, Montreal. Since 1972, associate professor, then professor of English, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia. Editor, Tish, Vancouver, 1961–63, and Imago, 1964–74. Since 1966 editor, Beaver Kosmos Folios. Awards: Canada Council grant 1968, 1971, 1977; Governor-General's Award for verse, 1969, for fiction, 1981; Nichol Chapbook award for poetry, 1991, 1992; Canadian Authors' Association award for poetry, 1993. D.Litt.: University of British Columbia, 1994. Agent: Denise Bukowski, 125 B Dupont Street, Toronto, Ontario M5R 1V4, Canada. Address: 2499 West 37th Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia V6M 1P4, Canada.



Sticks and Stones. Vancouver, Tishbooks, 1963.

Points on the Grid. Toronto, Contact Press, 1964.

The Man in Yellow Boots. Mexico City, El Corno Emplumado, 1965.

The Silver Wire. Kingston, Ontario, Quarry Press, 1966.

Baseball: A Poem in the Magic Number 9. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1967.

Two Police Poems. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1969.

Rocky Mountain Foot: A Lyric, A Memoir. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1969.

The Gangs of Kosmos. Toronto, Anansi, 1969.

Sitting in Mexico. Montreal, Imago/Beaver Kosmos, 1969.

George, Vancouver: A Discovery Poem. Toronto, Weed/Flower Press, 1970.

Genève. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1971.

Touch: Selected Poems 1960–1970. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1971.

The Sensible. Toronto, Massasauga, 1972.

Autobiology. Vancouver, New Star, 1972.

Layers 1–13. Toronto, Weed/Flower Press, 1973.

Curious. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1973.

At War with the U.S. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1974.

In the Flesh. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1974.

Allophanes. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1976.

Poem and Other Baseballs. Coatsworth, Ontario, Black Moss Press, 1976.

The Catch. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1976.

My Lips Are Red. Vancouver, Cobblestone Press, 1976.

The Concrete Island: Montreal Poems 1967–1971. Quebec, Vehicule Press, 1977.

Another Mouth. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1979.

Uncle Louis. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1980.

Particular Accidents: Selected Poems, edited by Robin Blaser. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1980.

Ear Reach. Vancouver, Alcuin, 1982.

West Window. Toronto, General, 1982.

Smoking Mirror. Edmonton, Longspoon Press, 1982.

Kerrisdale Elegies. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1984; as Elegie di Kerrisdale, Rome, Empiria, 1995.

Seventy-One Poems for People. Red Deer, Alberta, Red Deer College Press, 1985.

Delayed Mercy. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1986.

Urban Snow. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1991.

Do Sink. Vancouver, Pomflit, 1992.

Sweetly. Vancouver, Wuz, 1992.

George Bowering Selected: Poems 1961–1993. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1993.

Blonds on Bikes. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1997.

A, You're Adorable. Ottawa, Above Ground, 1998.


A Home for Heroes, in Prism International (Vancouver), 1962; in Ten Canadian Short Plays, edited by Peter Stevens, New York, Dell, 1975.

Television Play: What Does Eddi Williams Want?, 1965.


Mirror on the Floor. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1967.

A Short Sad Book. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1977.

Concentric Circles (novella). Coastworth, Ontario, Black Moss Press, 1977.

Burning Water. Toronto, General, and New York, Beaufort, 1980.

En Eaux Troubles. Montreal, Quinze, 1982.

Caprice. Toronto, Viking Penguin, 1987; New York, Viking Penguin, 1988.

Harry's Fragments. Toronto, Coach House, 1990.

Parents from Space. Montreal, Roussau, 1994.

Shoot! Toronto, Key Porter, 1994; New York, St Martin's Press, 1996.

Diamondback Dog. Montreal, Roussan, 1998.

Piccolo Mondo. Toronto, Coach House, 1998.

Short Stories

Flycatcher. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1974.

Protective Footwear. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1978.

A Place to Die. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1983.

Spencer and Groulx: from the Forthcoming Novel Caprice. Vancouver, William Hoffer, 1985.

The Rain Barrel. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1994.


How I Hear "Howl." Montreal, Sir George Williams University, 1968.

Al Purdy. Toronto, Copp Clarke, 1970.

Three Vancouver Writers. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1979.

A Way with Words. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1982.

The Mask in Place. Winnipeg, Turnstone Press, 1982.

Craft Slices. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1985.

Errata: I May Be Wrong, But& Red Deer, Alberta, Red Deer College Press, 1988.

Imaginary Hand: Some Literary Essays. Edmonton, Alberta, NeWest Press, 1988.

The Moustache: Memories of Greg Curnoe. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1993.

Bowering's B.C. Toronto, Viking, 1996.

Egotists and Autocrats. Toronto, Viking, 1999.

Editor, Vibrations: Poems of Youth. Toronto, Gage, 1970.

Editor, The Story So Far. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1971.

Editor, Imago (Twenty) 1964–1974. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1974.

Editor, Great Canadian Sports Stories. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1979.

Editor, Loki Is Buried at Smoky Creek: Selected Poems, by Fred Wah. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1980.

Editor, My Body Was Eaten by Dogs: Selected Poems, by David McFadden. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, and Flushing, New York, Cross Country, 1981.

Editor, The Contemporary Canadian Poem Anthology. Toronto, Coach House Press, 4 vols., 1983.

Editor, Sheila Watson and the Double Hook: A Book of Essays, Readings and Reviews. Ottawa, Golden Dog, 1985.


Bibliography: A Record of Writing: An Annotated and Illustrated Bibliography of George Bowering by Roy Miki, Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1989.

Manuscript Collections: Douglas Library, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario; National Library, Ottawa.

Critical Studies: Introduction by the author to Touch: Selected Poems, 1971; A Record of Writing by Roy Miki, Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1990; George Bowering: Bright Circles of Colour by Eva-Marie Kröller, Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1992; George Bowering and His Works by John Harris, Toronto, ECW Press, 1992; A Rhetoric of Reading Contemporary Canadian Narratives: George Bowering, Margaret Atwood, and Robert Kroetsch (dissertation) by W.F. Garrett-Petts, University of Alberta, Canada, 1993; George's Fragments: Bowering's Phenomenological Self (dissertation), Queen's University, 1993, and "The International Politics of Existentialism: From Sartre, to Olson, to Bowering," in Mosaic (Canada), 29(1), March 1996, both by Trent Keough; "Postmodern Myth, Post-European History, and the Figure of the Amerindian: Francois Barcelo, George Bowering, and Jacques Poulin" by Marie Vautier, in Canadian Literature, 141, summer 1994; "Caprice and No Fixed Address: Playing with Gender and Genre" by Isabel Carrera, in Kunapipi (Aarhus, Denmark), 16(1), 1994; "'A Real Historical Fiction': Allegories of Discourse in Canadian Literary Historiography" by Michael Greene, in Commonwealth Essays and Studies (Dijon, France), 21(1), autumn 1998.

George Bowering comments:

(1974) I don't think that I will make a "personal statement introducing my work" because I don't write personal poetry. In fact, when personal poetry gets to be confessional poetry, I turn it off & reach for the baseball scores. I'll share with you what I wrote as notes 2 days ago: The snowball appears in hell every morning at seven. Dr Babel contends about the world's form, striking its prepared strings endlessly, a pleasure moving rings outward thru the universe. All sentences are to be served. You've tried it & tried it & it cant be done, you cannot close your ear—i.e., literature must be thought, now. Your knee on class equal poet will like use a simile because he hates ambiguity. The snowball says it: all sentences are imperative.

*  *  *

George Bowering began to write as an undergraduate in the English Department of the University of British Columbia, where he was an active member of the Tish group. The formative influence on this group was the Black Mountain school, especially the "projective verse" and "composition by field" practices identified with Robert Creeley, Charles Olsen, Ed Dorn, and Ronald Duncan.

From the first Bowering had his own voice, which is rather tender and lyrical. At the same time the attitude he takes to his subjects is often that of a rugged West Coaster who crafts his words and lines with the resourcefulness of a lumberjack or carpenter to meet real, everyday needs. Not for him the nuances or reveries associated with the literary writers of the eastern United States and Canada and their preoccupation with the verse of the past.

Storytelling lies at the heart of Bowering's art, and so it is not surprising that his short poems soon began to take on patterns and that the patterns began to predominate. Thus, from Rocky Mountain Foot on, his book-length collections have had the feel of books of poems rather than collections of disparate poems. The compulsion to tell the rest of the story or the next story has led him to the longer poem, which is generally a series of linked short lyrical poems.

Because storytelling is more often associated with prose than with poetry in the twentieth century, Bowering has turned to prose and has written successful novels and short stories that are fairly conventional in form.

Consistent with his desire to expand the readership of poetry as well as its range and powers of expression, Bowering has written a great deal of prose about his favorite fellow poets: forewords, prefaces, introductions, dedications, appreciations, explanations, reviews, and so forth. He has been most generous with his praise. As a critic, his range is deeper than it is wide. So moved was he when he learned of the tragic death of his friend the painter Greg Curnoe that within a month he had written an entire book of prose meditations, The Moustache, a work full of love, affection, feeling, insight, and appreciation. It is also replete with characteristic Boweringisms ("I remember that Greg Curnoe always knew guys with names like Ernie.")

Bowering will be remembered as a occasional poet, not in the sense of an amateur poet but in the sense of a writer who immortalizes or emblazons the moment as it takes wing. So caught up in the quotidian is Bowering that there is little sense that his poems or his work generally is heading anywhere in particular or has been anywhere in the past. He conveys visceral sensations of the moment, certain emotions, and a few thoughts, but the inner values only lightly touch upon the opposites of memory and imagination. It is as if no one but Bowering had ever written before.

There certainly is a sense of movement in his lines, but there is little or no sense of direction to his work as a whole, despite the arrangement of poems into groups, cycles, and books. This is not a limitation in the short run, but it certainly is a shortcoming when applied to a body of work. Because Bowering does not take himself or the world all that seriously, so easily do things come to him and to it, there is some humor in most of what he writes. It is probably safe to say that he is a major poet who has not written a major poem. (The sole candidate that comes to mind is the Kerrisdale Elegies, a series of poetic meditations that begins with a direct steal from Rilke: "If I complain, who among my friends/would hear?" The question is not answered.) Over the decades the writer has become more adroit and the lines more stylish, but the man behind them has remained much the same bohemian who began writing as an undergraduate at the University of British Columbia in the 1960s.

—John Robert Colombo