George Bowering reads from Autobiology (New Star Books, 1972) and from Curious (Coach House Press, 1973).



Background noise, setting up microphone.


George Bowering


Oh I just did a review of Al Purdy's new book of poems so maybe I'll just start off reading that. [Laughter, audience member (Al Purdy?) says something inaudible] I said I liked it Al. [Laughter.] [Silence while he is turning pages.] I'm related to practically everybody here. I'll turn this off now. [Laughter, inaudible talk about microphone etc.]


Unknown Introducer


...I think that George Bowering has read or done- or not done, or not written. [Inaudible] says that he has two new books, one called Curious from Coach House Press, and another In the Flesh, coming out in the following [inaudible.] The one thing I can add to that is-- has to do with baseball, about which I know much less than George. You still have your team?


George Bowering




Unknown Introducer


Okay, it's occurred to me that George understands one thing that is rather important to understand that is that the difference between setting up a place and hitting the ball out of the park, and going [inaudible], on the one hand, and on the other, stepping up to the plate and being there when the bat does what it's supposed to do and the ball takes itself out of the park. And this applies to baseball, and it also applies to poems. And that's what George understands.


George Bowering


For those that life in California, that's what Suzuki Roshi calls Zen Baseball. I'm really excited to be back here, this is really a burn for me, because, can you hear me if I talk at this level? I'm hearing an echo, but I-- can you hear me? [Laughter.] I'm reading for the next three weeks back and forth but this is the first one so I haven't got stale with any of this stuff yet in the east. And I'm going to come back in a few minutes to Autobiology, because I've never read it in the east although I started writing it in Montreal and finished it in Vancouver, but before I do I'm going to read a piece that is sort of representative of what I've been doing lately in Vancouver, called "Desert Elm", the desert being the Okanagan in this instance and the elm being the kind of tree that people planted there that wasn't there before and grew-- they tried a lot of other ones and they didn't work. And it's a poem about my father and it deals with- it was begun with his heart attack he had in August and what happened after that, to me.




Reads "Desert Elm."


I woke, & woke again, to see her smiling
at me, & turned to find soft sleep in the
green pillow.

Later in the day she said what were you
dreaming, you were smiling in your sleep,
but again it was my sleep, though I have
never said that

Later I felt the pain three times inside
my left arm, driving the red car, & I re-
membered, I had dreamt that I too had had
my heart attack.

Attack, I didnt mean that when I told her,
sitting now on my lap, it was simply all
I could remember of my dream & thinking,
of course, but I am nearly thirty years
younger than him.

He finally had his on the green grass of
the golf course, how mundane, how it
filled my mother’s voice with unwonted
fear, to be telling this to me.

I thought of a rock, not quite round, to-
night, reading H.D. on the old age of the
professor, a rock, not quite round, be-
ginning to crack, it will crumble, will
I know this earth.


The earth he made me on, we dug into
side by side, has not been there,
has been carried there by the glacier,
all rocks & all round rocks, all stones
rolled together.

We toiled among the stones, the rattling
sound is my earth, where I grew up look-
ing like him. There was some light fal-
ling always into the valley, always blue,
the blue that hovers over heat, a blue
I saw cooling the Adriatic shore.

It is the blue fading in his eyes, they
are not startling blue, it is the family
colour I never got, they are not bright

blue but fading to a transparency you
will notice only if you are watching
closely, I mean within a few feet.

They found a desert & made it bloom, made
it green, but even the fairways seen from
across the valley are under a blue haze,
the smoke of space it seemed on high sum-
mer days, not a cloud in the sky, no more
in that eye.

The earth is not brown but grey, grey of
stones, the flat stones round to the eye
looking straight down.


I never saw him attack anything but a
baseball, a golf ball, his own records,
to be beaten despite his getting older,
to compete satisfactorily with himself.
That is why he never rebuked her, he is
more pure than I.

He said hold the hammer at the handle’s
end, for leverage, not because he was a
science teacher, because he knew how to
do it, full out, not thinking or rather
thinking wide open, down the lines of

He had those muscles you can see under
the skin, the large vein down the middle
of his bicep I never had, I didnt get
the blue eyes or that, & not the straight
nose, I would perhaps never have broken
it then.

He is associated with no colour, no colour
clothes or car or house, hoe would as soon
eat a peach as an apple. I think of the
apple splitting in half as some can make
it between their hands, as he could likely
do that, & it is white.

In the last two years his hair is thin
& one may see between them, & they are
white. His slacks were white below the
purple blazer, & worn twice a month.


Rounding the bases his neck became red as
a turkey’s but it was a home run, every
one like me has to see his father do that
once, fearing his father is like him, not
as good.

Red as a turkey neck, his eyes bulging,
his heart already something to frighten
the young boy, was it something she said
as this other says now to me playing my
guerilla ball, I dont want you collapsing
& dying on the field. It is a playing field,
I say, I can feel my blood running red
under the skin.

I tell him about it whenever I can, my
average, joking as if I am my team & he is
his, & sometime we must come together,
clasp & both of us, win. He was his mother’s
first child, I was my mother’s first child,
& after us came just all the rest, the
bases cleared already.

But he didnt get it done till a quarter
century later, he lay they say on the fresh
cut grass, all the red gone from under the
skin of his face, pale, these pale blue
eyes looking for her?

In my dream I thought of course, I too,
what will I take up when too old to round
the bases, what crimson driver.


I thought of a rock, not quite round
sticking half out of the earth where I
would put the ladder’s foot. In a hurry,
without patience to place it safely to
be up that tree & working

& working. Never half as fast as he could
do it, but in some ways inheriting his
quiet efficiency & turning it to grace.
He said he would never play second base
& I found it the easiest position, bending
over occasionally to pick stones off the

Even this summer, a month before his fall,
he pickt twenty pounds while I pickt
eleven, just more than half & I am more
that half at last, thirty-seven, moving
around to the other half of the tree,
but someone guesst, that is under the
ground, the root system.

A tree, growing downward as I dreamed I
would or desperately hoped I would, to
become this child again, never having the
nerve or wit, age four, to follow that to
its home, from one hundred back to the
seed, & then what. A new lease on life?
For him?

The earthly tree grows downward, we do it
after all. bypassing the womb, back where
we came from, down the rabbit hole on the
golf course, above the shade of the old
cherry tree.


General knowledges are those knowledges
that idiots possess. What words would you
use to characterize your relationship with
your parents. Scratchy tweed pants they
provided for Sunday school. I remember be-
cause of my legs. They look now like his
legs, shorts he wears at the golf course,
no embarrassment, he has come this far,
what are they to him?

Prophecy is finally simple & simply more
interesting than the characterization. We are
not characters, we devise characters. I
sat as still as possible, the backs of my
knees held forward from the hard curved
wood. Those pants were never worn out,
though they belonged unused to some uncle

His white slacks hung for two weeks in the
closet we’d built some years earlier, he
took them out two Tuesdays each month. A
lifetime uses few such garments. Who wears
the pants in this family is no sociological
question. Prophecy is no answer. If you
need an answer go make up a question &
leave me alone without it.

He has those muscles you can see under the
skin, the calf muscle like mine tending to-
ward the other, inside the line of shin
bone. I see his lines every morning in the


I woke & again I woke, to find her smiling
at me, & turned to return to soft sleep
in the green pillow. A tree, growing down-
ward as I dreamed we all would or hoped
we would, against my god or what they
gave me as my god, their god, given them
against their will, we punish the gener-
ation that succeeds us.

Did I mean to say he did that. No, he
never tried to bend my life, never stood
between me & the sun, this tree grew where
the seed fell. A new lease on life? For
him? In the thick dark forest the trees
grow tall before they extend wings. Tall
green pillow.

They found a desert & made it bloom, made
it green, but even the trees feel blue
smoke curling among their branches, the
smoke that holds away the frost, the early
message that fills our hearts with ice,
lovely to taste fresh from the branch,
but it doesnt travel well. All stones
rolled together, long enough & they will
all be dust, hanging in the air over our
blue lakes.

Prophecy is finally simple, & simple a
pair of eyes thru which the blue of the
sky travels, an observation thru a lens.


Staring straight into his eyes for the
first time, I see the blue, a sky with
some puffy clouds many miles away.
Step into the nearby field, over the sill,
into footprints that disappear as I step
into them, into the blue sky that is not
above but straight in front of me. Straight
eyes, in all the photographs, & in one old
brown kodak print of the family assembled
I look into his oval eyes & see inside
them a man walking backward, out of his

My eyes are brown, walking inside them
would be moving over burned grass on low
hills. They found a desert & made it bloom.
I move closer, zooming into his eyes &
find the first aperture completely filled
with one petal of a blue flower, a close-
up of a star weeping in surrender to the
earth, a tear, Aurora weeping helplessly
on the edge of the Blue Nile.

He’s no sun of mine, I never stood between
him & the brightness, the mistakes I made
will live as long as those ovals stay open.
I walkt into his open eye, over the sill
& saw two enormous black holes in the sky.
A voice came thru a nose & reduced them
to a personality. I had never said the word
poetry without a funny accent.


Men who love wisdom should acquaint them-
selves with a great many particulars.
Cutting the crisp apple with a French knife
I saw that the worm had lived in the core
& chewed his way out, something I’ve seen
a thousand times & never understood & while
I’m looking he’s on the other side of the
green tree picking. One two one two, the
wisdom of the tree filling his picking bag,
its weight strapt over his shoulders. He
showed me, you cross the straps like this
& keep it high. Get above the apples & look
down at them.

& I still do it wrong, reaching up, pick-
ing with sore arms, strain rather than wis-
dom filling me not the bag. He said the
safest step on the ladder is the top, he
was trying to get me up, & always right,
this one I have learned & Saturday I was
on the top step picking apples, wanting
someone to advise, That is how one becomes
acquainted, working to gather.

I could be a woman but is it a woman. Is
it a woman you can work together with, is
it a woman you know doesnt feel the part-
iculars as you do, they are apples, not the
picking of them, the filling. She has been
without a man for years, she offers ladders,
tools, bags for apples. You want some-
one to advise to be him, but do it silently
knowing your expertise is somehow, known.


I did not see him lying on the grass, I
may as well have been under the ground,
perhaps entangled in the tree growing down-
ward, an earth. His earth, our particular
earth, as it sifts back & forth, composing
like dust on a piano, only an old black
typewriter with round keys, making faint

So fain they barely heard him. It was Aug-
ust & the grass dry, the thin words rose
like a tree into the air, lightly, as blue
as the thin smoke hanging over the green
fairway. It has nothing to do with justice.
He spent thousands of hours in those trees
picking pennies for me, this day he was
knocking them into a hole, I’m glad to hear

In the ocean light of the ward window his
eyes are barely blue & deep in his head
like my daughter’s. He woke again to see
me smiling at him, his head straight in
the pillow, a rock nearly round. In the
desert the rocks simply lie upon each other
on the ground, a tree is overturned out
of the ground, its shallow widespread roots
coiled around small rocks. By these fruits
we measure our weight & days.


George Bowering


That's the longest one I'll read I think. I was going to go into Autobiology, but I'm just going to jump right now into one section of Curious, I'm going to read the Jack Spicer part for Artie [Gold?], and then I'll [inaudible.] Curious is a- that's one of the books that's coming out this week, it's about, it's a book about poets, sort of, and this one's about Jack Spicer, who, Artie digs.




Reads "Jack Spicer".

He turned to me in the bar at the bar
he turned to me & said he askt me
do they he said take a lot of drugs in
Vancouver or was it do you.

It threw me like they say off but boy did
I know who he was.

He walkt thru the room with two others in
a light light gray unpresst summer weight
suit with curling lapels as if it had come
from the bottom of the Chrales River wrapt
around him & nobody knew who he was,
they were all Canadian university professors
gathered here to drink the liquor provided
by the Ryerson Press.

That was a month before he died, the Giants
were still in first place & they stayed there
most of the summer but finally finisht second.

All the literary feuding did not stop it was
not over. Everyone went home to the story
of Jack’s death. His story was nowhere near
my story, they were all over America. You
aint heard the half of it.

Change the sucking with a little sucking, act one
of white wines, all together, worry with wounds.

His hair was one. His skin was one. His
eyes were one by one worried. His forehead
was one. His time running out down south
was one & he went south. Farther south
it began. That was one, where. It was there,
that was the trouble, it was there.


George Bowering


He was supposed to be moving- that was in the summer of '65, he was up in Vancouver and just decided to move up there so he wouldn't die, and because he would die if he stayed in San Francisco, and then he said, well just before that I'll go down to the San Francisco Poetry Festival, and when that's over in three weeks I'll come up to Vancouver, and he died during the second week. Okay, this is- Autobiology is a book  that came out, two years ago this month, actually, 72, yeah. And I started writing it in Westmount as they say and finished it in Kitsolano. I started writing it in a an expensive flat in Westmount, and finished it in a commune on the edge of the water in Vancouver and it's a story about, as it suggests, it's a story, it's a book, it's poetry, it's prose, it's something about things that have changed me in terms of my head but first in terms of chemicals and physiologically, changed my body literally and so on. So I'll just I'll read portions of it. I toyed with the idea of reading the whole book, it's the sort of thing we do in Vancouver, like we sit down and read the whole book, and this was published the same day as Stan Persky's The Day, a book called The Day, and it's the same length, about a hundred pages, and he read The Day and we took a break, and he read Autobiology and then we took a break of a couple of hours and he read The Day again. But that's sort of- that happens a little- it's a little easier to take when everybody is kind of a volunteer anyway, when everybody in the audience has known all the time that this was being written and that it was going to be read, the whole book. So I'll just read parts of it so you get a taste of it. Each section is about one and a quarter full scat[?] pages when it's handwritten, long, approximately so it turns out to be about two of these pages. "Chapter One"-- there's forty-eight chapters. "Chapter One: The Raspberries".




Reads "Chapter One: The Raspberries".

When I was thirty I had free raspberries in the back yard & I loved them. In the back yard & I ate them. & I ate them in the kitchen out of an aluminum pot. When I was thirty I loved raspberries, I loved to eat them. I loved the way they were made of many pieces in my mouth, & they came from the outside of the bush & the inside. They came from the outside in the sunshine & from the inside in the darkness, & that is where they went again. But inside in the darkness is where we are told the subconscious is & that is why I would not eat the raspberries. I could not eat raspberries when I was three years old when we had free raspberries in the front of the yard. In Peachland, where the free raspberries grow, & they grew outside in the sunshine where I could reach them when I was three & a half. I could reach one & ate it & I thought there was a bug on it. But I ate it too fast to know for certain. Years later I saw a face at a girl’s window & I thought it was a man named Russell, but I went away too soon & so I never knew. I never knew whether I ate a bug on a raspberry. I had never eaten a bug before so I didn’t know what they taste like. I could not eat raspberries for years after that day in our front yard when I was over three years old, even though the raspberries always lookt so good with all their round pieces in a cone or bunch. But there is a hole inside the raspberry & it could always have a bug inside it.


George Bowering


Did that ever happen to-- I'm sure these kinds of things must have happened to- the way I was telling [inaudible] this afternoon that the way this book is written was I knew the general frame was things that changed me that way, from things put in my body, generally, or pieces of my body taken off, or whatever. Or pieces of my body going out into someone else's body or whatever. And I'd go home in my house in Westmount, from here, and I'd say 'I got it! Today I'm going to do the broken tool part' and I'd run home and I'd start controlling the thing and I'd throw it away, so all the pieces that are in here are the pieces that are not thrown away, the ones where I didn't know what I was going to write when I started writing. I have the sense that I tried to describe that afternoon as being simply equal to what was coming in the story. This is "Chapter Two", I'll read "Chapter One" and Two and Three and Four and then I'll skip. This is "The Teeter-totter".




Reads "Chapter Two: The Teeter Totter".

Sometimes they are called see-saws, but that is in a school-book or back east, & we always called them teeter-totters. Some had handles & others were plain boards, but for years I could not ride a teeter-totter. A very small child teeters before he rides, he is a tot. I was a tot in the darkness inside that is fear. I was afraid to ride the darkness because I was let down on the rocks. You must trust the boy on the other end, you must play the board. & he let me totter to fall on the rocks. Because I fell I was afraid of that moment’s darkness. The see-saw rises to the sun & drops to the darkness & the board is the same with a handle or without. I was inspired to be afraid of rising & I fell to the rocks. I cried that I could not trust the board but I could not trust the boy who let me rise & stept off the board to the rocks. My blood would rise in fear if I was near a teeter machine where I lost my blood to the rocks in falling. Up to the window, down to the rocks. Up all my life, to down on the rocks. They were stones round tops out of the earth. I stood near the swings & teeter-totters at recess thinking of my schoolbooks, & what my fear is called in there.




Reads "The Pollywogs".

Sometimes they are called tadpoles, but that is in a schoolbook or back east, & we always called them pollywogs. We always got them from the water under the railroad station. Somewhere it is called a bog but we always called it a slough. I loved to have them in a Mason jar with water from the tap, to watch them. You wanted to watch the legs come out but you never did. They were there one morning. You wanted to watch them when they were frogs but you never did. I cant remember why you never did. Not in jumping but in swimming.

Not in the grass but in the water. Not in the croaking but in the silent swimming with a tail. The tail would entirely disappear but I cant remember the tail disappearing. Almost, but not. It is a story someone was going to tell but I never heard it.

I heard the rocks on the hard dry earth baked & packt in our back alley. I walkt in the alley & saw the pollywogs where someone had overturned a jar of them & the water disappeared into the hot air or the baked earth. The pollywogs were a clump of jelly with no tails. They were silver in the sun. It was silver among the gray rocks on the earth.


George Bowering


"The Flying Dream". This is the origin of why I decided to write poetry I think, or at least I've always made that connection. "The Flying Dream".




Reads "The Flying Dream".

The word from my hand follows the release of my eye from the dream of my release from the ground but just. Growing up is knowing all the evils of the world & failings of all people

will not be corrected before the end of my life.

I was two & I was three & I was nearly four. I was one with the ground, I was too good to be true, I was free of the earth, I was for

correcting all the evils of the world & I would never die, I would never begin dying. I flew standing up, maybe six inches from the sidewalk. I could never get higher but I could fly. I flew in the attitude of Jesus standing on the water or above all on the mount of olives, Jesus I thought I was. I began to think I was a super man or Jesus because I could not be ordinary or what was the use of being here inside my mind instead of out there where they all were? In my dreams, I never met anyone flying toward me. I never grew all the way up, for later I thought I was a poet, I had to be a poet or what was the use in learning words & being inside my skull rather than out there where they all are.


George Bowering


It's the basis of that West-Coast elitism now. I- after I'd done this whole book I found out there's two chapters called "The Breaks", I'd totally forgotten that this chapter had written me this time. So this is the first chapter on “The Breaks”.




Reads "Chapter Three: The Breaks".

Before I broke my nose the first time it turned up & I wisht it did not turn up and I got my wish. Before I broke my nose the second time it had a hump & I wisht it had no hump & I got my wish. Before I broke my nose the third time I was not reconciled to having a funny nose but I made no wish because I’d seen what that leads to twice but it broke again anyway.  Before I broke my nose the fourth time I wisht I would break something else for a change & got my wish. Before I broke the middle finger of my right hand I was working in the orchard & wisht something would happen to me & I could quite working for a while & I got half of my wish. Before I broke my foot I wisht something would happen beyond my control to get my girl & I into bed together & I got a portion of my wish. Before I broke my hand I wisht I could impress my intended with the sincerity of my emotion & we got my wish.

Those are the breaks. We make our own breaks. We learn to take advantage of the breaks. We step on the breaks. We apply the breaks. The breaks even themselves up. We don’t ask for more than our share of the breaks. Those are the breaks of the game.


George Bowering


Gee, there's one I've never read before, I mean, out loud. I'm not going to anyway, heck with it. Oh, here's one that every once in a while there's, it comes to, the thing comes to writing itself or talking about the writing of itself, so here's one called "Composition", for those that are worried about the problem it'll be totally clear. I think. It defines composition. "Composition".




Reads "Composition".

Consciousness is how it is composed. Consciousness is how it is composed. I told the Jungian professor there is no such thing as the subconscious, I decided to appear at his window where the blackness was & shout there is no subconscious. Consciousness is how it is composed. We cant go to sleep I said & find out what we are thinking because then we are asleep. Or are we asleep. Consciousness is how it is composed. We are sometimes composed when we are awake. I think we are always being composed when we are awake & consciousness is how it is composed & we are it too because we are nobody’s dream. When we dream we are awake. It is composed & not by us because we are in the composition. I say consciousness is how it is composed. Consciousness is how it is composed, & that is how we are conscious so we were never asleep composing. I wanted to appear at his window before he fell asleep & tell him I was no dream. I may be romantic but I am no dream. That is simply the way I am composed. I am composed by him & composed by me & they are different but they are not dreams they are consciousness. That is how they are different & that is composition.


George Bowering


Here's the other one called "The Breaks"




Reads "The Breaks"

I broke my nose on a girl’s heel. I broke my foot under a ladder. I broke my nose on a baseball. I broke my finger under a wagon. I broke my nose on a man’s fist. I broke my hand against a concrete wall. I wisht my nose did not turn up & I broke it. Has the cat got your tongue? I wisht my nose was not pusht to one side & broke it & it was pusht over to the side. Investigate him. Seek the vestiges of his movement. Look for fingerprints. Gumshoe investigator, break the case.

He wants to know why the bones are broken & they are not stronger where they broke him. He calls a strike on you if you break your wrists. I broke my nose again on a baseball. I struck the wall behind burlap & broke my fist.

Birney broke his fast thru a wired shut jaw. Jerry broke across the street & a car hit him and now he’s in traction. Lionel was hit by a car that left him broken on the street. The wagon was free from the tractor & it broke my finger. Jesus Christ, I said. They broke the back of my car on the wet dark street.

I got too close & the foot broke my nose. It was the first. It was right in front of my brain.




Reads "Come".

I tasted my sperm on my finger. I had come full circle. I remembered Willy saying George what is this white stuff. The first time the smell is fresh, after that you don’t notice. It did not taste as it smelled but that was later. That was later in the circle. The testes are drawn as circles & then the weight makes them hang & they are ovals. It was worth the wait. Worth their weight in gold she said tasting it. It doesn’t taste as bad as you’d think. What would you think. It beats meeting a monster who has circled behind you. Put it all behind you was worse the waiting when it came.

The coming was all of a sudden he said it just came. Later he said I came but that was later after the second coming. It is the same white stuff. Is it dangerous? No, I tasted my coming on my finger. She came round to that too, full circle. I made her full & she came & later I tasted her coming on my finger. That was the second coming. When you get older you’ll come only once she said or you wont come round at all.

Why given round heads if not for eternity I said. Taste my tongue in your ear she said.


George Bowering


This is one that, this is a favorite among the serrifs[?] in Vancouver. The- I live in a community now as different from the community I lived in a couple of years ago of all kinds of people that are going to Cold Mountain, esalen encounters all the time and they're always talking about shrinkage and they're always telling me why don't you take shrinkage, and say 'I don't feel like I need shrinkage' and they said 'that proves you need shrinkage'. Can't get out of it, you know, that's your problem- you don't think you need... So this one is sort of a [inaudible] of that, it's called "The Childhood".




Reads "The Childhood".

She was always asking did you have a happy childhood & I was always saying a happy childhood I don’t know or I suppose so I don’t know. Well she would say would you say you had an unhappy childhood. I don’t know I would say an unhappy childhood I guess I would say I had an unhappy childhood but only for a reason & then it wouldn’t be an unhappy childhood I suppose you would say. She would say as she was always saying then what kind of childhood was it really.  I would always say I dont know what kind of childhood was it really I suppose it was happy & sometimes I was unhappy but it was not unhappy it was that I was unhappy but not it because even when I was unhappy it was in all probability happy. She would always be saying then I would simply ask you was it or is it a generally happy childhood or a generally unhappy childhood. I guess it was all in the way you look at it for a reason I would say thinking of her childhood. She wanted to have me ask about her childhood was it generally a happy childhood or generally an unhappy childhood but I would say it depends on the reason you would want to say whether it was a happy childhood or not.


George Bowering


This one's about the literary world, it's called "St. Louis", where, St. Louis is where William Burroughs and an earlier poet came from. T.S. Sandburn, I think his name was. [laughter.]




Reads "St. Louis".

I was playing cards when the long distance phone call came to tell me they would publish my novel. Was I excited? Of course, I was winning. About the novel? Oh but I already had some books of poetry publisht, I already had books. Was I excited about them. We had almost publisht a book by Tishbooks in 1963. Was I excited doing that. I had seen my poems publisht in magazines in Eastern Canada, all of which we called Eastern Canada as they do in football & air cadets. The poems in Eastern magazines. I had got paid for my first poem in a magazine right there in Vancouver. Was it exciting to see it printed & get paid for it. Not much pay. To get paid though. But the poem had already been publisht in the university magazine & the illustration & design were better there. Was that quite exciting. I had already publisht poems & prose in the magazine in earlier issues. Was I excited the first time. I was used to it because before that I saw my writing every week in the air force newspaper. Was that a kick. In high school my stories were in the annual every year. Was that a nice part of being in school. I was more interested in the weekly baseball & basketball stories I sold by the inch to the out of town paper. A good feeling for a kid to see his words in the paper then. I had been selling my baseball & basketball stories to the local paper for years. I wanted to be a sports writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.


George Bowering


Then there's a whole series of pieces on towns that I lived in which I'll skip over. Skip that one, skip that one, get to these ones at the end. Here's one called "The Flesh", which I guess was involved with at the time, writing a book of poems about the flesh.




Reads "The Flesh".

Nobility nobility, hate the word but do it, hate the words but live off them, hate the words as Hemingway taught but do the deed as Hemingway taught who was called Ernest. She had an abortion & I was not the father.She had it & I thought I was not the father. I think now I may have could have been the father but I couldnt have though I love it. Her father thought I was the father or I thought so. Nobility, hate the thought but the deed is father to the thought & that was before linguistics or was it. Who was father & who cares because there was no child, she was seventeen. In the tennis court, on the bed. Dresst in long skirts, housed in her own suite in the house, It was likely there & it was there that I let it be known or thought by her father or likely others. Not for pride, not that sort of pride in any case. He said it just came, it just read off the page. Write a novel unlike Hemingway save for the author, hating nobility but ensuring that they see the deed. The deed was outside the house, not in. Her father paid for it & I remained silent. No one ever called me a savage.


George Bowering


I think I'll read the last couple in this one, and then see what time it is. "The Operations" everybody is my chance, right? Every vessel, living in a house with my mother talking about operations the last couple of weeks and she couldn't really do it. So I get my chance now, ‘cus I don't really get the chance-- that's my mother on the cover of the book by the way, that's my mother and that's me. There she is.




Reads "The Operations".

So pleasing is disaster, I want you to hold still while I tell you stories of my operations. So easy is the laughter now, they say it`ll keep you in stitches but it would not. It would not but that is long enough ago, yes, so ancient is being old enough in the matter. Even the water we see from our beach here gusht from his side & it is too late to tell you that story, hold still. You bastard you bastard I said to my own body, part of my body I want you to hear about. It is my body & it rimes, this is the basis for composition & autobiology it is going to be there if you can hold still long enough for it. Hold still he said this is going to hurt & a wave will cover the toes of your shoes if you stand still. So pleasing is disaster when you are old enough & it is old enough it is right there, right there, in front of you, like a wave that has stood still. Operation in my throat operation in my belly operation on my hand operation in my mouth hold the line please. It does not shatter, it usually does not shatter, it cuts & folds back softly & the water comes out mixt with blood, red again, the whiteness of a powder dissolved & sent into, it is nice to be this old, between operations. The body of the work gets tired as the body gets tired & that is your own biology & it is not disaster, it may need an operation. Foot by foot, tonsils, appendix, hand & jawbone.


George Bowering


And the last two, this is "The Scars".




Reads "The Scars".


George Bowering


And the last one is called naturally, "The Body", Chapter Forty-Eight.




Reads "The Body".

The body is not muddy it is hardly muddy it is muscles yes it is still muscles with less hair at the knee & calf where it has worn pants. The body is not muddy it has worn places especially the knee & calf where the hair was & is almost gone & there is no hair where the scars are. There are also parts where the eye can never see & they are not worn by the eye behind glass & they are worn nevertheless. I am sometimes weary of having worn the body for so long but I will not say that, good bye to all that, so long. So long hair it has been so long, it has never been so long but it is worn. It was sweet & sometimes cold. The body is not now nor has ever been muddy, that is clear. I am in the middle of a stream & my body is the stream & what is the boat. The body is not muddy it is mostly water & so was my mother, she was the first stream the primal stream I floated out on to the land I landed on making a bit of mud with my water. There are parts of the eye can not see because they are in the past they tell us has done just that, what a view of the stream. If this is the stream & I am still to float what is the boat. What is the boat.


George Bowering


That was Autobiology, it's actually, can you imagine, a Tetrology. And the first volume was called Geneve and it was based on a found thing with the tarot pack and with the Geneva version of the French pack, Marseilles pack. The second one was Autobiology and the third one was Curious and the fourth one is- Dwight Gardener wrote it, in a book called the Book of the Occasional. I was going to write it but he wrote it, so I didn't have to. It's just absolutely beautiful and if you see a Book of the Occasional, you'll see what I mean. It's just a gorgeous, gorgeous book. Oh, gee, I'd love to read-- how long can I have now?





George Bowering


...Because I just suddenly remembered I'd love to read a piece I have called The Big Leagues. But then I also have a book called At War with the U.S. that I- was the first book of poems I've written in years, but maybe I'll just read The Big Leagues, that will probably take- and then maybe I'll read one or two pieces from Curious. This is a book- a thing called The Big Leagues and it's in a few- in five sections and maybe I'll get tired before I get to the fifth one, but I'll just see how- the first one is called "The Detroit Tigers".




Reads "The Detroit Tigers".


George Bowering


That was written in South Slocan, B.C. I think this is my favorite one, it's called "The Dallas Cowboys".




Reads "The Dallas Cowboys".


George Bowering


The next one's called "The San Diego Padres" but I'm going to skip that one because it's about getting dope into-- what happens is that Chance is coming back, he's now wearing the uniform that Slim Chance had before he died, a U.S. Army uniform that says "Chance" on it and "US Army" and they're sneaking some dope into San Diego and it has to do with some Padres whose clothes are taken off so they can use them to hide the dope and everything. The next one's called "The Buffalo Sabers".




Reads "The Buffalo Sabers", interrupts reading with explanation.


George Bowering


Oh, by the way what happens is that I took four quotations from poetry, and three of them are taken from the normal Ohio academic American Poetry Anthology and one of them is taken from Robert Creeley at the end, and you can tell. I can't even remember what poets I took from, like all those guys sorta have the same thing, you know, Donald Hall Anthology Poets if you know what I mean.




Resumes reading "The Buffalo Sabers".


George Bowering


And this one is for a lot of friends of mine, it's called "The Minnesota Twins" and he's going on, he's leaving Buffalo and going to- has anyone here been to- has anyone here been to Bemidji, Minnesota? You know what they got there right? That great big, blue Ox and the great big Paul Bunyan carved about 30 feet high or something like that. And other than that, it's a beautiful town, you know, it has the- it looks like the underground of another town turn upside-down, so the bottom is up above the ground, right? "The Minnesota Twins".




Reads "The Minnesota Twins".


George Bowering


I think I'll read like for ten minutes and that'll be for a total of an hour, five minutes or something like that. I'll just, I'll pick, this is Curious, which is a- that other book's coming out, it's called In the Flesh and it's maybe the last book of occasional, magazine book verse poetry I ever do, it deals with the experience of being in your 30's and finding out that the world isn't round after all and how sad you can be and how strong emotions can be. It has an introduction called "I never felt such love". But it's mainly lyric poetry, and I just, I've read so much of that that it's got to be too easy to read and write and everything. So I'll read a few of these. The poets who are mentioned in Curious, it happens that there are a lot of my friends who aren't in the book. Because, again, I wrote it that way, if you know, if that person did not come up, excuse me, from the other side of the page or however that feeling is to be described, if the voice wasn't there or something, for instance I really wanted to do a Roy Kiyooka poem, and you know, I just couldn't and it didn't come and I had wanted to but if I had tried that it just would have been screwed up. Some of these are American, some are Canadians, a couple are English and maybe one or two other things. And the first one is, naturally, Charles Olson. Olson, as you probably know, was about 6 ft 10 and weight about 300 pounds. And I first met him- I was standing at the bottom of a flight of stairs and he was coming down them. So I said 'hello' to the knees of his sear-sucker suit.




Reads "Charles Olson".

He was coming down the stairs so large he was
coming down the stairs so tall I thought he
is so large it is the stairs coming down on
our heads or I thought in a way he is
still coming up the stairs & we are at
the bottom & here he is. I introduced myself
& I was looking at his belt buckle which
was crooked. The stairs were behind him
but they could not be seen so we will
never know where he came from or how
he got there, so big. He is so big we are
in awe of him but he was always giving
large pieces of himself & we never call him
by his name made short he is so tall. A
friend today said he never understood anything
he wrote or said & my wife said there is
an honest man. I said I understand lots &
lots I dont understand. I lookt at his belt
where he would have to buckle to be our
size & some of us would have him do that
but not many. Older than Byblos earlier than
Palestine & possesst of an alphabet before
the Greeks he came down on our heads
like buckling stairs. He said hello & said
this must be Angela but he didnt re-
member Angela has yellow hair at least in
the poem. The words enter at the eyes &
meet their neighbours there & eventually know
everyone there, a polis behind the eyes. Hello
he said, neighbor, on this other coast. Years
later it was true but it was always true.
Old clothes years later other old clothes he
dresst an all the language we could ever
have had. Hello he said at the bottom
of the stairs where we were, it was
startling though we had heard of the size
that was in all books where the words were.


George Bowering


I'll get some Canadians in here. Margaret Atwood, she's the first Canadian to appear in here.




Reads "Margaret Atwood".

Peggy has.
I am led to believe I havent.
She seems to have,
What is it she seems to have.
She keeps it a secret.
She has that.
Other times I think I have.
Some times I dont want to have.
When I’m away from her.
Or her letters.
She is growing better looking all the time.
She has that too.
Or she is late getting that.
So that is why she wanted.
Maybe she doesnt get it but seems to.
Maybe she wants.
To seem to.
Sometimes she looses her hair & it tumbles.
& has it, the other.
I am led to think I havent.
She has.
She is not so young anymore.
She is glad of it.
She has that.
I would like to see her with all her clothes off.
Especially the points of her hipbone.
She probably has that.
She invites specialists.
Why does she not write pornography.
With another name.
She doesn’t have to.
She is growing better all the time.
Probably she is afraid that she doesn’t have that.


George Bowering


There are some poets in here that you won't know that are more specifically Vancouver-oriented poets perhaps that aren't as well known out here so I'll skip those. This is "bp Nichol". Everybody knows bp Nichol, or everybody is bp Nichol.




Reads "bp Nichol".

I walkt to the back of the house in the
yard near the garage & saw him in a
white shirt plying ping pong with a patient
or friend or someone else who lives in the
house & there he was.
I sat at the table where we were reading
aloud together & heard him from behind where
he sat & drank bourbon with ice, a poet
taking his own kind of holiday, hooray.
Judy lookt as if she wanted to be him
or be with him or kill him.
I think that all the time he was listening
to the ice in the glass his ear was thinking
One time he placed a bottle of Pinch on the
coat hook on the back of the door in our
clothes closet & we opened & closed the door
for two months before we found the bottle
of Pinch & it should have fallen off many
times so we drank it & later I bought him
a bottle of Pinch in August because the night
before we had been drinking bourbon on his
credit card in the bar where he goes to
drink his own way, the poet.
There he was, on the tape, all over the
country, making personal appearences, Captain
Poetry, listening to the voices of the four
horsemen in the children’s fiery
chamber of verse.


George Bowering


"Stephen Spender". I was going to skip this one, but it has a few moments in it.




Reads "Stephen Spender".

I just had trouble remembering his name.
I was surprised how tall he was
& he had white hair & a pink face
& colored shirt brown or red
& a hanky stuck up his sleeve
& I don’t remember what he said
the first poet I ever saw.
Reading him with Auden in high school
I liked it because they had time in their
poems & here he was used by time, what
a surprise. Long legs & a gentle smile,
what the hell are poets I wondered,
men? old men?
A hanky up his sleeve. He had pockets, it
was that long ago, I wondered what does
this mean & if I could carry a hanky up
my sleeve but I didnt own a jacket, &
I dont remember anything he said, I was
there at university on the floor watching
a famous Englishman with a crooked tie
& I saw him walking away gently taking
care of himself surrounded by people wearing
jackets covered with dust.
That’s what books lookt like. Famous
books. I don’t remember any of his words
I read by choice in high school. Auden
was better & first but I didnt see him
till 1971 & hated him that no talent
easy work soft life faggot with his
witty insults. I’m beginning to forget
what he said altogether.
I never did carry a handkerchief anywhere
& still dont, I remember that.


George Bowering


That's, boy, that's- like you're out on the West Coast where you've never seen a poet before in your life and the first one they bring you is this guy you've been reading in books and he's a white-haired-- it's unbelievable. You know, John Newlove's--? John Newlove, for those who know John Newlove.




Reads "John Newlove".

He comes in & sits; down & he is gloomy
in the chair, looking not at all like an Indian. He
sits in the chair & drinks; the cooking wine & his
teeth smell bad over my face in the morning & his
hair looks coift now, coift now, in Toronto. He
sits down in Toronto playing gloomy, George
Stanley says we are heading toward a time when
despair will be popular. In Toronto he is a poet
of the future; cataclysm, slow cataclysm he will
sit & drink, thru. He is fat & he is thin & parts
fall out & it is noted, it is a surprise to note
without having thought of it till; now he has
no home life save in the poems, thru the black
prism of the poems. He sits in prison & drinks &
his home life drips into the poems, black drops,prison is a backdrop for his gloom. It is gloomy;
ness. It is a monster outside the second storey
window in the rain near the race; track, it is not
Saskatchewan where the Indians are. Why are the
Indians in Saskatchewan, all; writing poems un-
interrupted by their home life. She is sorry, waking
up & how did she get in here. She is growing
better looking all the time & pieces fall out, he
falls off the chair drinking; wine the color of his
first book of poems before he could expect
Toronto’s home life. He comes in but where
does he come in. Alone. Alone.


George Bowering


That last part is from a title of one of his books. David McFadden is, this is the David McFadden piece and maybe I'll read it and a couple more. It's not my favorite but it's one that I like reading. David McFadden- well, it tells you what he's like, but David McFadden is a- he scared the hell out of Allen Ginsburg because he writes really funny poems, like he literally has things, like he walks out into the backyard and sees the Arch Angel Gabriel or a space man and just talks to it and talks about it in the story of the poem a paragraph after he's talked about going out and buying some cigarettes or something like that and Ginsburg thought, wow, what a weird spaced out guy, so Victor Coleman took him down to Hamilton to see David, David- he's got, as he said in the note of one of his books, "I was born in 1940 and I comb my hair straight back", and in his house, he's got an electric pendulum clock and you know that sort of thing. And Ginsburg took one look and said [inaudible ‘scared’ sound], and ran away. Just couldn't believe it, you know, it's unbelievable. So, David McFadden.




Reads "David McFadden".

He was a proofreader for eleven years & now he
is a reporter, there are no mistakes in his poetry. His poetry
lives by its wits in Hamilton where it has grown fatter & fatter
for eleven years. One day his poetry left town & headed west,
got a summer job in Lake Louise but he found out & told the
hotel it was too young to be working, so his poetry came home
on the CPR Canadian. He told his poetry to stay in school &
get a graduation certificate because an education is vital in
today’s society. His poetry stayed home for a while & cheered
for the Hamilton Tigercats, but after a while it grew tired of

school & ran away again, this time with the circus. By the
time the big show reacht Moncton, New Brunswick, the
birthplace of Northrop Frye, David’s poetry was first chair
in the lion-tamer’s act. The lion-tamer held it by a sustained
metaphor & crackt his whip right under the nose of the big
cat, deeply impressing the first night audience. Norry should
be here to see this, they shouted to each other. But David
found out where his errant poetry was again & the Mounties
drove it home in a black Plymouth. Here’s your chair they
said when they arrived at 9 Toby Crescent, you better sit on
him & keep him out of further mischief. But David saw the
reality of the situation a few days later---his poetry wouldnt
eat or play with the children in the neighbourhood, or even
talk to David. David stood up from his typewriter & sighed,
& then he forced a smile and made this announcement: I see
that I have been laboring under a common misapprehension
too long. You are a man & from this day forward you are
free to make your own life. After that a strange thing
happened. His poetry got a job as a taxi driver, right there
in Hamilton, pushing the cab at night & taking extension
courses at McMaster University by day. A year later it
married a Hamilton girl & David is waiting for the news of
her first child.


George Bowering


There wasn't a comma in there, that was the Indian food coming back. Now let's see...[ audience member requests a poet to be read] No, he didn't get in there either, and I'm very sad about that, just people that got in that I wish didn't get in and there's people that didn't get in that I wish did get in. [Audience member asks for Raymond Souster] Yeah, I think I might have skipped over Raymond Souster, the Raymond Souster one is, as you might imagine the shortest one in the book.




Reads "Raymond Souster".

He wears a pair of brown shoes.
In the summer he mows his lawn.
He drinks rye whiskey & lager beer.
He prefers a fairly large dog.
He numbers his pages & knows what the
date is at all times, & the batting average of the first
I am interested, that is what counts.
He wears a gray suit & glasses.
He was in the armed forces.
He won a trophy for bowling.
There is fresh snow
between red tulips
melting into ragged circles
under the clean young sun
He sometimes changes the ribbon on his
He is satisfied with the press of his trousers
He knows the barber’s name.
His photographs are in the right place &
he is always looking at the camera & it does not make
him smile.
It does not make him smile but it does
not make him strike a pose. He is nobody else.


George Bowering


I got a Purdy one too, but Al weighs 210 pounds. No, I've always made it a policy not to read the ones of somebody that's there. I don't know if there are any other ones that I'm going to read. [Audience member requests poem.] Yeah, I don't know where the hell it is. I like the Lionel Kearns one actually. [Searches for poem.] Oh I don't know what's happened to the Lionel Kearns one, it's one of my very favorites too. I think maybe, I'll see if I can find the Lionel one in a second then I'll read it and I'll finish off with the Bill Bissett one. If I just had the book with me it'd be a hell of a lot easier. I don't think I'm going to find the Kearns one. I can't find the Kearns one, it's all about how he can't find anything. This is the Bissett one and then I'll finish off with that.




Reads "Bill Bissett".

Round & Round he goes & where he stops.
Round & Round he goes & where he stops
Round he goes & where will you find him, no
one seems to find him, round he goes & the
reading stops & he is gone before you have
begun to know, it stops & where is he, you
look round & round but he is gone & then
you stop, he is gone.
Round & Round he goes & round where he stops
the inky smudge of words of words yes of
words, oh of words, round they go, in, & in,
you feel them inside each other, all inside,
round they go, till the letter, I’m thinking
of P, capital P, inside the P is a
Round he goes & knowbody knows. He sent me an
ap parition
er ap
parishioner, round to see me, a wrap
or issue, it was a
blew ointment for my rapt
derision, many years ago, round a
nineteen sixty too, where he stops, an
apt emission, to see, like it was a ghost of
smudgy ink, an Inkster, & poet going round & round
inspiration, & instinctual apparition, this whole
thing goes round & round & isnt it ap parent &
isnt it a mazing that round it goes & right here
it stops.






Bowering, George. Autobiology. Vancouver: New Star Books, 1972.

----. Curious. Toronto: Coach House Press, 1973.

----. In the Flesh. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1974.

---. Touch: selected poems 1960-1970. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Limited, 1971.

----. The Concrete Island: Montreal poems, 1967-1971. Montreal: Vehicule Press, 1977.

----. Points on the Grid. Montreal: Contact Press, 1964.

---. (ed). The Contemporary Canadian Poem Anthology. Toronto: Coach House Press, 1984.

Davey, Frank. From There to Here: A Guide to English-Canadian Literature Since 1960. Erin, Ontario: Press Porcepic, 1974.

Farkas, Andre & Ken Norris, ed. Montreal English Poetry of the Seventies. Vehicule Press:Montreal, 1977.

Geddes, Gary (ed). Fifteen Canadian Poets Times Two. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Mandel, Eli (ed). Poets of Contemporary Canada 1960-1970. Montreal: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1972.

Miki, Roy. “Bowering, George (1935-)”. Routledge Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English. Ed. Benson, Eugene; Conolly, L.W.. London: Routledge, 1994. 2v. Concordia University Libraries (Montreal). 3 Nov. 2009.

-----. A Record of Writing: an annotated and illustrated bibliography of George Bowering. Vancouver, B.C.: Talonbooks, 1990.

Quartermain, Peter and Meredith. "George Bowering." Canadian Writers Since 1960: First Series. Ed. William H. New. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 53. Detroit: Gale Research, 1986. Literature Resource Center. Gale. Concordia University Libraries (Montreal). 3 Nov. 2009 <>.

“Poetry Readings”. OP-ED (Sir George Williams University, Montreal). October 6, 1967: page 6.

Transcript, Research, Introduction and Edits by Celyn Harding-Jones

George Bowering at SGWU, 1974

Catalog numberI006-11-034
Sound qualityGood
SpeakersGeorge Bowering, unknown introducer

Supplemental Material


00:00- Background noise, setting up microphone

01:54- George Bowering introduces reading

04:12- Unknown male introduces Bowering

05:48- George Bowering introduces “Desert Elm”

07:22- Reads “Desert Elm”

20:04- Introduces “Jack Spicer” from Curious, book about poets]

20:43- Reads “Jack Spicer”

22:10- Explains “Jack Spicer” and introduces “Chapter One: The Raspberries” from Autobiology.

24:41- Reads “Chapter One: The Raspberries”

26:06- Introduces “Chapter Two: The Teeter Totter”

27:05- Reads “Chapter Two: The Teeter Totter”

28:22- Reads “Chapter Three: The Pollywogs”

29:31- Introduces “ Chapter Four: The Flying Dream”

29:40- Reads “Chapter Four: The Flying Dream”

30:54- Introduces “Chapter Eight: The Breaks”

31:15- Reads “Chapter Eight: The Breaks”

32:24- Introduces “Chapter Fourteen: Composition”

33:02- Reads “Chapter Fourteen: Composition”

34:32- Reads “Chapter Twenty: The Breaks”

35:53- Reads “Chapter Twenty-One: Come”

37:13- Introduces “Chapter Twenty-Six: The Childhood” shrinkage]

37:56- Reads “Chapter Twenty-Six: The Childhood”

39:05- Introduces “Chapter Twenty-Seven: St Louis”

39:21- Reads “Chapter Twenty-Seven: St Louis”

40:49- Introduces “Chapter Forty-Three: The Flesh”

41:23- Reads “Chapter Forty-Three: The Flesh”

42:43- Introduces “The Operations”

43:14- Reads “Chapter Forty-Five: The Operations”

44:53- Reads “Chapter Forty-Seven: The Scars”

46:24- Reads “Chapter Forty-Eight: The Body”

47:48- Talks about Autobiology

48:45- George Bowering introduces “The Detroit Tigers”

49:20- Reads “The Detroit Tigers”

51:56- Introduces “The Dallas Cowboys”

52:08- Reads “The Dallas Cowboys”

54:56- Introduces “The Buffalo Sabers”

55:31- Reads “The Buffalo Sabers”

55:37- Interrupts reading with explanation

56:04- Resumes reading “The Buffalo Sabers”.

59:06- Introduces “The Minnesota Twins”

59:39- Reads “The Minnesota Twins”

01:02:25- Introduces “Charles Olson” from Curious.

01:04:18- Reads “Charles Olson”

01:05:56- Introduces “Margaret Atwood”

01:06:16- Reads “Margaret Atwood”

01:07:35- Introduces “bp Nichol”

01:07:56- Reads “bp Nichol”

01:09:40- Introduces “Stephen Spender”

01:09:52- Reads “Stephen Spender”

01:11:17- Introduces “John Newlove”

01:13:08- Reads “John Newlove”

01:13:08- Introduces “David McFadden”

01:14:29- Reads “David McFadden”

01:16:13- Introduces “Raymond Souster”

01:16:58- Reads “Raymond Souster”

01:17:58- Introduces “Bill Bissett”

01:19:29- Reads “Bill Bissett”.