Bowering, George

 George Bowering, poet, fiction writer, editor, critic (b at Penticton, BC 1 Dec 1935). Although recognized as one of the foremost Canadian writers of his generation, Bowering has yet to receive the critical attention his large and varied body of work deserves (although a first study of his work, Eva-Marie Kröller's George Bowering: Bright Circles of Colour (1992), as well as a special issue of Essays on Canadian Writing, have begun the necessary work).

After RCAF service, Bowering attended UBC, where with Frank Davey, David Dawson, James Reid, Fred WAH and others he studied the new poetics of Creeley, Duncan and Olson, and founded the poetry newsletter Tish. Since that time, he has extended his range and his poetics through study of various European writers (Samuel Beckett and Claude Simon, to name just two); he has assumed his many and complex influences with grace and intelligence, and simply cannot be dismissed as a mere Black Mountain acolyte. He taught in Calgary, London and Montréal before returning to Vancouver to teach at SFU. He founded Imago (1964-74) and is a contributing editor to Open Letter.

A prolific writer, whose poetry, both lyric and extended, seeks to capture flux in the rhythms of its open structures, and whose fiction seeks to subvert realist conventions through self-conscious textual invention, Bowering has published over 40 books. A witty sense of play animates his vision in them all. His poetry includes Rocky Mountain Foot (1969) and The Gangs of Kosmos (1969), for which he won his first Gov Gen's Award; The Catch (1976), Selected Poems: Particular Accidents (1980), West Window (1982), Kerrisdale Elegies (1984), Delayed Mercy and Other Poems (1987) and Urban Snow (1991).

Of his fiction, A Short Sad Book (1977), Burning Water (1980), a novel about George VANCOUVER's voyages of discovery, for which he won his second Gov Gen's Award, and Caprice (1987) stand out. His most recent publications are another "historical metafiction" concerning The McLean Gang, the novel Shoot! (1994), and his first collection of short fiction in 10 years, The Rain Barrel (1994). He has also published 5 collections of critical essays: A Way with Words (1982), The Mask in Place (1983), Craft Slices (1985), Errata (1988), and Imaginary Hand (1988).

The best introduction to his work is Robin Blaser's essay in Particular Accidents, a volume which, because it casts so widely over his previous work, grants readers a privileged overview of his development. Burning Water remains his finest novel, not least for the way it insists on the emotional integrity of its characters even as it simultaneously insists that we read them as fictional constructs. Similarly, Kerrisdale Elegies, a sharp and witty but finally profoundly moving homage and critique of Rilke's Duino Elegies, stands as Bowering's finest extended poem. It is one of the long poems considered in Smaro Kamboureli, On the Edge of Genre (1991).