The first Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada turns 80 today. I first met George Bowering at the (sadly now defunct) Victoria School of Writing Summer School in 2005. I had started my graduate work in what would become Organic Poetry and I had heard a little bit about how the TISH poets of Vancouver, B.C., in the early 60s were in the mode of the Beat and Black Mountain poets that had inspired me considerably in the first ten years or so of my investigation into poetics.
He was gracious enough to do an interview with me back then, though my knowledge of his work was weak. I still have to get that interview onto my site here, but other interviews I have done with him are at: https://www.paulenelson.com/2015/10/21/george-bowering-nellie-grey/
I was the first poetry curator to invite him to read in Seattle. It was 2006 and Subtext gave the reins of power to me for one night. The late Marion Kimes was my other choice to read that evening.
And he has written brilliantly on poetics in books like Craft Slices (used copies start at $40.00 CDN) and gives you nuggets like:
If there is a place in poetry for discipline and control, they are to be applied to the poet by himself and not to the poem or its subject material… The problem seems to me to settle down over the word “order,” how it appears in your mind. Do you think of a priest or monk taking his orders or do you think of a salesman filling an order?… Filling orders in poetry, we forget out own natures and propound ourselves as we’d like to be seen, not as we know ourselves to be… take care of the question of audience by being the audience… (85, 86)
It is important that he writes brilliant poetry, poetics AND fiction, is funny and witty as hell, but the ironic being but one tool he’s mastered. He understands very deeply the notion of the practice of outside, something understood and mastered by a select few. This depth and versatility, the depth of the ideas he communicates, and the sheer brilliance of his work will allow him to go down as a brilliant world poet, not just one of the top five poets from Cascadia ever.
And for you George Bowering on your 80th, this poem with heavy use of anagrams. It is an honor to know you and a delight to read your work, always.