Life lessons from George Bowering, a master of writing
George Bowering has written over 100 books in an array of genres, including poetry, fiction and memoirs — sometimes all at the same time. His books are always filled with wit, enthusiasm and some hard truths as well. Although he's not a fan of literary prizes, he's racked up quite a few of them, including Governor General's Awards for poetry and fiction. But he doesn't rest on his laurels — in the past year he's published four books, despite having suffered a nearly fatal cardiac arrest in April. George Bowering spoke to The Next Chapter host Shelagh Rogers from Vancouver. This interview originally aired on January 18, 2016.
ON FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE GREAT POETS
Poetry isn't a one-person job. It's a task. The great poet Shelley saw himself as carrying on the work that had been done by the great poets before him. We don't think about this much in poetry anymore, but I think that's what we're doing. We are carrying on the task that was not completed — and never can be, of course — by the poets before us. And we choose our tradition. As Sheila Watson and T.S. Elliot said, one's tradition is built by what one reads. And it's way different than it used to be — we don't just fall into the tradition of who happened to be born before us in the same part of the world. Because now it's possible for us to read the poems and other works by writers from all over the world. We have to choose a tradition.
George Bowering's comments have been edited and condensed.