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Peculiar author pays homage to Kroetsch

Renowned author George Bowering will speak at this year’s artsPeak Arts Festival, though what he’ll say is a bit up in the air.
George Bowering
George Bowering

Renowned author George Bowering will speak at this year’s artsPeak Arts Festival, though what he’ll say is a bit up in the air.

“Apparently, it’s in two parts – first it’ll be me and a group of young writers discussing stuff and me straightening out their writing lives,” said Bowering in an interview with the Outlook. “I’m probably almost as vague about it as you are.

“Then there’s going to be a festival and we’re still working out what I’m doing there, but there’s going to be a reading and I’ll also do some kind of a strange thing that’s halfway between a talk and a class dealing with a very peculiar book I recently published. The book is all about the peculiar ways I wrote some of my peculiar books.”

artsPeak takes place June 15-17 in the downtown core under tents this year.

Now based in Vancouver, where he is a professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University, Bowering has lived and worked all over the country and now sees himself as a resource for other writers.

“The best advice I can give is, whenever you go someplace, always leave with a better umbrella than you came with – oh wait, that’s only for Vancouver. I lived in Calgary for three years and I think it rained about four times,” he said. “I’m a resource and people are going to come from all over to make as much use of me as they can. I think of myself as a resource and I hope there’s still something left of me when I get out of town.”

This will be his first time back in Canmore in quite some time.

“I haven’t been in Canmore since it was about four buildings, must have been the ’60s,” he said. “It used to be just three or four cabins, a place where you could pull off the road.”

He decided to participate in the festival as a means to pay homage to his dear friend Robert Kroetsch, who, after participating in last year’s artsPeak, died in a car accident on the way home.

“When they asked me if I’d do it, I said ‘Nah, I’m not interested,’ and then I was thinking about it and they’re going to put Robert Kroetsch’s name on it – he was the first person to do it, last year, and then he got killed on the way home – and he was a very good friend of mine. For some strange reason I felt like I had to do it for him,” he explained. “So I decided I would. It wasn’t reasoning, it was just my emotional reason for deciding to do it.

“I feel like I’m trying to carry on the job that he started so well – of course, he was the best writer in Canada. We had a big memorial about him in Edmonton a couple of months ago and showed how important he was to people, not just in Alberta, but all over the country.”

Kroetsch was a great writer who expanded the meaning and direction of the printed word, explained Bowering.

“He was not just an extremely good poet and a wonderful novelist, he was on the edge,” he said. “He didn’t decide to write the novels that everyone wants to read, he took on the task of changing the novel to see where the novel wanted to go, and then he did the same thing with poetry.

“Some people called him Mr. Postmodern and people all over the world became his fans and saw him as a person who was doing an enormous amount for literature. What he did in Canmore was to come and talk to young writers, so I thought I better do it too.”

As to what he’ll say when he talks, Bowering couldn’t say for sure.

“What I like to say to them is usually dependent on what they ask, and what it is that they need to know or they don’t know or what assurances they want for doing something right,” he said. “I like to respond to that, and I think of it not as me telling them which way the world is going, but which way they want their world to go.

“It’s going to hell in a handbasket; no, it’s going to hell in a Montana; no – I don’t know – they’ll have to find out where it’s going.”

Over the course of his lifetime, Bowering has written more than 100 books, a feat which anyone can accomplish, he said.

“It’s easy, if you sat down and wrote a page every day, you’d have 365 pages after a year, and that’s a good big book, or it could be two little books,” he said. “And if you wrote two pages a day you could have three books a year. It’s not hard.”

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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