Interview with Canadian poet George Bowering, conducted on October 12, 2012 at roughly 12pm.

The interview took place at Concordia University in the Library Building's Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling. The interviewer was Jason Camlot, the principal investigator in the project and an associate professor in the department of English at Concordia.  Ashley Clarkson a graduate student in the department of History took care of the audio-visual aspects of the interview. George explains how he became interested in poetry and what the Sir George Williams poetry series meant to him.  He discusses what significance the title of Canadian poet has for him.  George describes how different poetry is when it is out loud and that on the page only a small isotope of it's true significance has been reflected.

Jason

00:00:00.74

Okay, here we go. So, for this part of the interview I said I'd divide my questions into two parts: one are a bunch of very general questions that I hope to ask everyone that I interview, just to have some points of conversations, but then I also have some really more particular questions around the series because you're, you know, you were... You've been involved with it, so you'll have— You'll probably be able to fill in some gaps, some information gaps, and just give some insight into the thing.

George

00:00:29.11

(laughs) You should have asked me twenty years ago (both laugh).

Jason

00:00:36.26

But I'm going to start with some sort of general ones, just to work into talking in a more general sense about reading poetry out loud, I guess, that would be sort of the way to frame this topic, right? And so I'll start with asking (pauses). This is... I'll start with an even sort of more formative question about how you came to imagine that writing poetry was a possibility for you. So how you came to poetry.

George

00:01:07.86

Yeah.

Jason

00:01:10.72

How you were introduced to poetry.

George

00:01:11.82

Yeah. Is that what you're asking me about right now?

Jason

00:01:12.52

That's the right... Yeah, that's the first question.

George

00:01:14.98

Hmm... (laughs) I've been on record as saying the first book of poems I ever bought was called Poems for Men by Damon Runyon. I was a teenager and all over BC. I bought it at Frank's pool hall. Frank's pool hall, they had magazines and some paperbacks. Those days, those cheap drugstore paperbacks, they were twenty-five, thirty-five cents for those things. You... They would publish poetry, they would have annuals of poetry, all the various little paperback publishing houses. That doesn't happen anymore (laughs).

Jason

00:01:49.34

No, I know.

George

00:01:50.74

Because poetry was sort of still... People thought it was, I guess, part of normal life, more than it became later. So... And I lived in a small town where you could not find books of poetry, or buy books of poetry, unless you were lucky like that, right? Or if somebody's household had the poems of some nineteenth century poet or somebody like that. It was very hard to find. Except what you're offered in high school. But I was able somehow or another to find things here, there and everywhere and read poets' poems that they weren't giving me in school. Not Canadians. I never heard of any Canadian writer. I was in the Air Force and my girlfriend sent me the students' literary magazine from UBC. I guess I was about nineteen, twenty at the time. And there was a sonnet in there that said "E.B." underneath it and she said, "This is, of course, Earle Birney." I didn't know who that was. The most famous poet in my province, right, and I'd never heard of him. I never read any Canadian... But I did, I was by that time, when I was in the Air Force reading some American poets like Kenneth Rexroth and Kenneth Patchen. I remember particularly reading them. But I wanted to be a poet before that. Partly I was a comic poet. I wrote a long, long poem when I was in grade 12 about headhunters in Malaka (chuckles). Don't know whether there was such a thing as headhunters in the Straight of Malaka, right? But that's what I did. It was really long, but it got lost (chuckles). But I used to write poetry in high school, sometimes comic, sometimes not, and when I was in the Air Force, and then throw it away. And every time I read a book I threw it away or gave it to somebody, but I didn't keep them.

Jason

00:03:46.92

When you say "comic poetry," it sounds like you have a particular genre, maybe even a model in mind for what that meant. Like, is it like Pratt comic poetry? Like, or... Or Damon Runyon, yeah. Runyon, yeah, exactly.

George

00:03:55.29

(overlaps) Well, it's like Damon Runyon wrote comic— (laughs) Yeah, you know. And I was reading all the sports magazines, and so a lot of— There'd would always be comic old baseball poems in those and so forth, right? So I did that. And I didn't start keeping poems until I was twenty-one. Maybe even more than that. Maybe a little older than that. I remember when I decided, "I don't have to throw them away. I can..." And then later on I felt the same way about books. "I can keep books! I don't have to throw them..." Now I'm old and throw them away again (laughs). Certainly there was no such thing as poets in my hometown. There was nobody else in town that was a poet. Nobody in my family that would even, you know... Years and years later I was shocked when I saw my old dad following my mother around the kitchen reading Shakespeare's long, long love poem... I forget the name of it. Oh, Apollo and what's-her-name, whatever. Whatever that poem is. Lucrece? No. I forget. Anyway, reading that to her. And I was just astonished, right? (laughs) She was going, "Oh, you're... Oh!" I come from a puritan— My mother's a puritan, so I grew up being a puritan.

Jason

00:05:12.00

When was the first time you heard a poem read out loud?

George

00:05:14.70

Out loud (sighs). The first... Probably in class or something, right?

Jason

00:05:23.18

Yeah.

George

00:05:23.48

But the first real poet I ever heard read a poem out loud happen when I had left the Air Force and gone back to UBC and it was Steven... Steven... That guy that was... Oh! Steven... (slapping leg).

Jason

00:05:45.74

It's okay.

George

00:05:46.17

(laughs) The second one was Marianne Moore.

Jason

00:05:49.58

Okay. Oh, yeah.

George

00:05:50.55

Steven... That English guy who was a friend of Auden's.

Jason

00:05:52.76

Spender.

George

00:05:53.72

Spender! Yeah, Steven Spender. Yeah. And during the reading he took a hanky out of here and so, I thought, "Oh, poets are these guys who put hankies up their sleeves." (laughs) I heard those of people. Then, this was because— If you were— In those days, BBC— Poets would come in and jazz guys would come in. I mean, that's also like the first time I got to hear Charles Mingus and so forth, right? But the third one was Kenneth Patchen. And I'd been reading Kenneth Patchen a couple years before that, and he was playing with a jazz band, right? (sighing) Oh! That just (snaps). That was so different, right? The other two were valuable experiences, right, before that, but when I heard that it's, "Okay, there's my direction." (laughs)

Jason

00:06:42.05

Right.

George

00:06:42.50

Right? And if you— In the US, if you went to New Directions books, there's my poets, right? From way back— You know, from Pound right up to Gary Snyder (light whistles). And Patchen was publishing him, right? So then you said, "Oh, well, I better get his books, including the ones that are hard to get, that— Oh, my God! It's a dollar and a quarter!" (both laugh). Yeah.

Jason

00:07:11.37

So that Patchen reading was at UBC?

George

00:07:13.43

Mm-hmm. Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Jason

00:07:14.61

(overlaps) So you remember much about it? Like, you know, made a... What'd— What was he wearing? I mean, there must have been things, you know...

George

00:07:19.73

He had to sit alert. I think he had red pants on. But he had to sit— He was in terrible pain in his back. He had a— He could hardly stand, so he was standing while reading, but he also had a stool to sit on part of the time and so forth. And he had a— The jazz band was made up of local guys, quartet, and one of them was a guy, an eighteen-year-old saxophone player. And they also played— The reason they were playing at UBC was because they were also playing at a jazz place called The Cellar in town. And they made a recording while they were there. It's an LP that's probably hard to get now. And the saxophone player, his name was Dale Hillary, I can remember that. I don't remember who the— (gasps) I do know who some of the other people were, but I can't remember their names right now. I remember the drummer became quite well-known in Vancouver years after that. Wonderful, wonderful hearing that combination of that jazz-poetry. That was really important. And so we played in the same venues, actually. Jack Kerouac was one of the guys who started doing like visual— I mean, audible poetry. And he played in The Village Vanguard in New York, right, where the jazz guys were, and with a jazz musician even, right? Piano player. So that was a natural... I don't know. No, it's not natural. A normal connection. Whether you're a guy like Kerouac— Kerouac would, right then, start making stuff up on, like, as a jazz musician does, right? He'd make it up as he was going, right? Which is— didn't happen that much with other people that read with music. But a lot of people read with music then, in those days. And various kinds of music. And even in the later— I mean, Michael McClure still does, right?

Jason

00:09:07.09

Yeah.

George

00:09:08.02

Oh, his reading here was funny. It was up on a stage, and he sprinkled flowers all over the stage, then he came on with some schmata. Some... (sighs) I don't know, some kind of flower child outfit, and he a person sitting cross-legged playing a... One of those things (laughs).

Jason

00:09:30.37

While, while he was...

George

00:09:30.71

And he picked it up and started playing it himself, too. They were both playing it for a while.

Jason

00:09:34.02

Really?

George

00:09:34.37

Yeah, yeah. I wonder if—Too bad they didn't have a visual. Or did they?

Jason

00:09:39.92

No, they didn't have a video of that.

George

00:09:42.10

That might have been in the last year, that one.

Jason

00:09:45.27

I can find it.

George

00:09:46.11

I've recently gone and heard him (laughs)...

Jason

00:09:49.16

Yeah, he was touring with Ray Mansrick, I think, from The Doors, right?

George

00:09:51.31

(overlaps) That's right, yep. Yep, yep.

Jason

00:09:55.79

He— Yeah, we're— Speaking of McClure, I have—

George

00:09:58.83

He might've even had flowers in his hair, I don't know (laughs).

Jason

00:10:02.54

He— I have one set of recordings that he made of "The Ghost Tantras" that he just recorded in his apartment, you know? He just— You can hear him sitting by the window and you can hear like traffic going by occasionally and stuff like that.

George

00:10:13.19

(overlaps) I remember that apartment. You can hear a lot of traffic (laughs). Yeah.

Jason

00:10:15.18

(laughs) I thought it was interesting, I mean... It's sort of a— I have a question about just how common it was to use tape, right? You know, as part of capturing your work, as part of the process, as part of poetry, you know?

George

00:10:31.87

Well, he did even used videotape because— What's his name, his friend from Kansas, the movie-maker?

Jason

00:10:38.97

Oh, I'm not sure.

George

00:10:40.05

What the fuck is his name? The movie-maker. Quite a— Avant-garde— He was to movies like people like McClure were to poetry. What the heck was— Oh, I'll remember his name later. When he was doing his poems with lins roaring, they went up to the Fleishacker Zoo in San Francisco, to the lion cage (laughs).

Jason

00:11:01.54

That's right. I saw that. I saw that video of him roaring at the lions and...

George

00:11:03.44

(laughs) Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Bruce... Bruce... The photographer's name, the camera guy's— the filmmaker guy's Bruce something. Yeah. Also from Kansas. Yeah.

Jason

00:11:20.78

So McClure— In here it says that McClure read with George Montana.

George

00:11:26.76

That would be the other person, yeah. But I don't think that person read. Because I don't know who George Montana is.

Jason

00:11:32.14

Yeah, who's George Montana?

George

00:11:33.30

Must've just been his musician.

Jason

00:11:34.92

Oh, yeah. Okay, maybe that was the one who was playing.

George

00:11:37.72

Yeah, the autoharp.

Jason

00:11:39.70

The autoharp, exactly.

George

00:11:40.24

Yeah, yeah.

Jason and George

00:11:42.44

(both laughing)

George

00:11:44.55

And flowers.

Jason

00:11:46.42

So, how... So, how did people respond to, like, Michael McClure, for example? You know, this— So this reading was in... Let's see what year it was. The Michal McClure reading...

George

00:12:06.11

It must have been seventy-one, seventy.

Jason

00:12:11.93

Well, I'll find it in a second, but it was in the early seventies for sure. Would people have known who Michael Mclure was in Montreal when he came here that time?

George

00:12:21.27

Montreal was always a little bit slow-er finding out what was going on in the hip poetry and music, etcetera, world. Not quite sure why. Montreal was a little bit... enclosed in itself, the English part of Montreal. And also, a little bit more willing to take the picture of the avant-garde that was presented to them by the popular press, if you know what I mean. But it got here eventually and one of the most important things that happened was in sixty-eight during the— I remember, I should have gone. I didn't go. But there was a lot of political stuff going on here at that time, and both Canadian, Quebec, Montreal and American. And there was a movie-maker from here, I forget her name, went down to the national— to the democratic national convention in Chicago and all that whole scene, Allen Ginsberg and so on, and made a film about that. I can't remember what her name was. And some of us, some people I knew went down with that, sort of as an entourage. I didn't go.

Jason

00:13:36.64

So a group of Montrealers went down to Chicago for the democratic national convention? And these poets, or these were just—

George

00:13:38.17

(overlaps) Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Poets and poetical types, and people, you know, musicians and artists and so on, right? Ball players (laughs). Yeah. I mean, they had, sort of— you know, people who knew what was happening and were interested, kind of, and committed, and etcetera. But McClure was... He wasn't as famous as Allen Ginsberg, obviously. When Allen Ginsberg read in that series... (laughs).

Jason

00:14:09.75

He came in with a troop of Hare Krishnas. Yeah, yeah.

George

00:14:11.26

(overlaps) he came in with a troop of Hare Krishna guys. Yeah, yeah. And so, with Allen, we were out at a Chinese restaurant— a very high-end Chinese restaurant that had like a ten course meal, and you had to start with the fish and end with the fish, and it went up and down and so forth, and everybody— and Allen looked and he said— Most people's poetry readings started late, but he would always start at exactly eight o'clock, when it was supposed to start. So he said, "I gotta go," and so I drove him up to up here. And he started at eight on the button. Except for the first hour was chanting (both laugh).

Jason

00:14:45.48

They had to get the chanting in, right?

George

00:14:46.72

Yeah, yeah. And so they really knew who he was, of course. And Michael was kind in on that a little bit, but he's not obviously as famous in the east as Allen was. But, yeah, I think they pretty well knew, kind of, what who he was and he was about. And also, there were flowers, man! (Both laugh) And everybody was wearing dashikis by then (laughs, coughs).

Jason

00:15:14.06

So was it— Like, was the scene for a couple of years— 'Cause, so, McClure read in 1970, right? So was it like a hippy scene? Or...

George

00:15:22.43

Yeah.

Jason

00:15:23.05

You would describe it that way for a couple of years at least, yeah?

George

00:15:26.77

It had an added mixture here because there was the French factor, right? So there was— It was bound to be different. And in my experience, most of the English side was Jewish people, right? Like, Jewish poets and friends and so forth. So, in fact even the English he spoke was kind of— I started talking as if I was Jewish (laughs).

Jason

00:15:50.39

So people like the younger guys, like, so are— Like, there's Layton and Cohen, say, who are the obvious sort of, you know, Montreal Jewish poets, but there were a lot— I mean—

George

00:15:58.97

(overlaps) Well, there was— Oh! Almost all the English-language poets were Jewish here, right down to, like, Artie Gold, right?

Jason

00:16:05.20

Yeah, well, there was Seymour Mayne and Hertz.

George

00:16:07.57

(overlaps) Yeah, Seymour Mayne, there was K.V. Hertz, there was... (tsks) George what's his name, with the big long name? There was Leonard.

Jason

00:16:16.71

Oh, Gnarowski. Or...

George

00:16:19.34

There was— Well, Gnarowski was, no, he was Polish (laughs).

Jason

00:16:23.16

Oh, he was Polish, he wasn't Jewish, hey?

George

00:16:24.41

But yeah, he— No, he was actually brought up in China in the European enclave in China. And Louis was— Everybody always thought that Louis was Jewish, but he wasn't. Matter of fact, when Lionel Kearns had to have a bris for his kid, he only had nine Jewish men, right? And they all— 'Cause they all had to be poets, so he got Louis to pretend he was Jewish (both laugh). It was neat. But there's a lot. There's Leonard Angel, who later moved to Vancouver. There was like, everybody was, right? It's just astonishing.

Jason

00:16:56.59

And how would you describe— Was there— Did they have a defined poetics, that group at that time? These were sort of like the heirs to Layton or something.

George

00:17:00.96

(overlaps) They— Yeah. And, you know, we knew about them when we were running TISH on the coast.

Jason

00:17:06.82

Well, they were writing you letters.

George

00:17:08.04

Yeah, they were. And they had a magazine and so forth. Motion, or Motive, or Mo- Moment or— Moment, I think! Right? And that was— I guess the main editor... Who was... Who were the main editors of that? I guess Seymour was probably the main editor of that, yeah.

Jason

00:17:23.87

(overlaps) Seymour was the main, yeah.

George

00:17:25.73

And the difference between them and us was they were more into the— We were— They sort of laughed at us for being interested in theory and form and all that stuff, right? They thought that you were just supposed to, like, see a naked thigh and get emotional about it, and write a poem (laughs). They never— They didn't have a poetics. They didn't write any poetics. They would just like, you know, write poems about what they saw on the bus and so forth. And, but, we were kind of associated with them, and TISH had a non-Vancouver page, an eastern, we called it our eastern page. And that's what Abe got in TISH, for instance. And so Seymour got in TISH that way, and Rich Coleman and all kinds of people back east got into TISH on the foreign page, right? (laughs) But that was kind of declaring that we thought they were okay, in a way, right? I can't remember when Gwen MacEwen got in that. I think— But— And did we— Ah, I can't remember who all we published, but, you know, then I left and TISH did a completely different thing, right? So, no, these— And— I actually, when I came here, I hung out with these famous older guys, partly. Like, especially, like I'd go to F.R. Scott's place and so forth, and I remember when I first came here I thought, "This is weird. I've heard of all these poets." And there is a group of Montreal poets and Montreal has always— was always, from, say, 1945 on, sort of, and before that a poetry hub. It was where poetry happened in English Canada. But when you'd get to a group at a party or something like that, they never talked about poetry. Like, we would, right? But they would just talk about, I don't know, real estate and (laughs) stuff. They never talked about poetry, though. I thought, "Gosh, what— Here's these guys, how can they be a movement if they don't move?" (laughs) And they kind of— Some of them kind of patronized us for being that way and said, "Oh, well that's obviously just because you're slaves of Charles Olson." (laughs) And, but I did hang out with these guys, I did with these people, because I thought they were interesting. And I had a special place in my heart for Doug Jones. I still write him real letters on paper (laughs). Oh, well. Type the letters on paper. Um...

Jason

00:19:51.62

Yeah, and he was a little bit different from the list of Montreal poets that you just mentioned. 'Cause he was— I don't know if you'd call him an avant-garde poet, but he was certainly more experimental, and he was also, very early on, interested in Quebecois poetry, French poetry as well. Yeah.

George

00:20:08.21

(overlaps) Yeah. He translated a lot and he didn't— And his poetry— I recognize his poetry as, to me, more interesting than the other people around because he wasn't expressing some kind of personality through verse. He was interested in— He looked to me as if he had read Ezra Pound (laughs) at the right age or whatever and so forth, that he was that much interested in poetry as an art to serve rather than poetry as a tool to, you know, like Irving Layton says, "I am nature's mouth, as its mouth I serve," right? It's like (whispering) fuck off. (Both laugh) Or, I mean to say— Yeah, he said something about poetry being freedom. I forget, some famous of his line of Irving's, right? I say, "Bullshit, Irving. You serve poetry, right? It's older than you, it's bigger than you, it's smarter than you, it's been around a lot longer, and it's going to be around a lot longer after you're gone, so don't say..." (Laughs).

Jason

00:21:08.71

Did you ever say, "Bullshit, Irving" to Irving Layton?

George

00:21:11.31

(quietly) My wife did. (both laugh) She also did it to Richler one time. We were up at a big party, Richler had come back from England. He had this big house—He always wanted to have a big, stone house up on the mountain—and he had this big party and Angela went up to him and said, "Clark Blaise isn't here. Didn't you invite Clark Blaise?" And he said, "No. Why, should I?" And she said, "Well, I think so. He writes better than you do." (both laugh) I would never have— But she could get away with that, 'cause they would— Then he followed her around for the rest of the night trying to... (laughs).

Jason

00:21:50.83

So there are a bunch of threads that I want to follow up on from things you've just said, and coming back to this group of younger Montreal poets, against or, you know, in relation to the West Coast. But let's go back to, you know, the story about Patchen and your experience in university and seeing poetry performed, and let's talk a little bit about Warren Tallman and the poets that he brought in, Duncan in particular, I guess, who I think probably made an important impression on—

George

00:22:20.82

He didn't bring him in. We brought him in.

Jason

00:22:22.05

Oh, you brought him. So can you tell me a little bit about the function of readings, right, in your education of this kind of poetics that was so important to you?

George

00:22:30.84

It's really funny that I was an English— Well, I was a history major, but in grad school I became an English major. And... It was so lucky. Just lucky. And I think this happens all through history, that there're just lucky things happen to bring people together. People happen to be at the right place at the right age and so forth, right? And this was certainly my experience, 'cause the people I went down to... Or, I went down at a certain time to UBC and also so did Fred Wah and Gladys Hindmarch and Lionel Kearns, etcetera, right? Daphne Marlatt, the— Most of us came from little dinky towns and came there to go to university, and eventually we kind of, some of us met some of— Like, I met Lionel first and so forth, and like Gladys maybe second, and then there was Warren Tallman. And his wife was Ellen. It was very important. Warren went to university on the G.I. bill or whatever it's called. So he did his— I can't remember which order he did them in, but he did one of his graduate degrees in Conrad and the other one in Henry James. What? (laughs) But he met Ellen Tallman while he was at university and she was from the Bay Area—Warren's from Washington—and she grew up knowing the poets that eventually showed up in the anthology, right? And she introduced Warren to these writers, and the possibility of these writers and so forth, and then the whole San Francisco scene with the, you know the printers and etcetera, anthologists, etcetera. And he just went. He just (whistles), yeah. He became like the (clapping intermittently) Kerouac guy, the Creeley guy, the Olson guy, etcetera, right? And he was so enthusiastic. This skinny little chain-smoking, chain-drinking (laughs) guy curled up in the corner of his couch, right? With his fingers going the wrong way and everything, like— Warren, right, with his little balding head and his little glasses. And he— You never said Warren, you always said Warren and Ellen. (whispering) She was like, big. She wasn't, like, she was little but, like, so— It's wonderful. So their hou- They— He was teaching and she was, like most of the women at UBC, being taken advantage of and given— They got to teach a couple of first-year courses and did more sessionals. Same thing happened with Phyllis Webb, same thing Jane Rule, right? All these wonderful people and they got, you know, what happened to them. But they were teaching. And people, somehow or another— Oh! Gladys! Oh! Warren gave a class, 429, American literature. Poetry. No, it was just called Poetry and I never enrolled in it. Everybody else enrolled in it but me. I sat in on it occasionally, right? But Gladys was one of the first ones and she wasn't even a poet, she was a prose writer. She wound up becoming their babysitter and then living at their place (laughs). And then things just grew, right? And we kept finding out about Warren and so forth. Eventually we did things like this. It comes time when we're in graduate school and we want to do a course. And we would like the course to be not one that's offered, but— What do you call those courses where you do one-on-one with your teacher?

Jason

00:26:27.40

Yeah, like a directed study course.

George

00:26:29.90

Yeah, a directed studies course. We wanted a course— Several of us decided each of us wanted to do a directed studies course on Ezra Pound and Charles Olson. And each of us would like Warren Tallman to be our advisor. Well, seeing as how there were, like, eight of us, and we all wanted to do the same directed reading course with the same guy, why not do them at the same time at his house? (laughs) Get a credit for it, right? Wonderful, right? I can still remember Fred Wah, who was a music major, he did one on the music of the Cantos, right? It was— Ah, God! See what I mean? It's so lucky. Just lucky to be there at that time with these people and that. Then we just— And then— Oh, yeah. So up comes Robert Duncan. We (sighs)— It was amazing. He was more famous in Vancouver than he was in New York. And this was common with Jack Spicer and so forth. So we're just like, he's a god for us, he's nobody for everybody else in the English department. They've never heard of him. They don't know who he is, right? Or, whatever, across the country. But that's part of the way it was in San Francisco. They didn't care if New York— They didn't care about that. Like, they had a— Like, they'd publish a small book, you know, like an edition of three hundred and fifty. They had three hundred and fifty people to read it in the Bay Area. They didn't care what was going on in New York, right? And that happened all the time. "So, do you think we could get Duncan to come up here?" "Well," says Warren, "We would have to, you know, get his travel paid for." So we brought him up on the bus. It's, like, a thousand miles (laughs). Yeah.

Jason

00:28:23.0

(overlaps) (laughs) Yeah, that's a serious trip. And he did it?

George

00:28:25.5

Yeah, he did. It's a twenty-four hour trip that he had. And he came, right? (laughs).

Jason

00:28:30.5

That's amazing. How long did he stay for, do you remember? Like the— Or did he just—

George

00:28:34.7

Long enough that Ellen Tallman did a series of interviews with him on CBC. He gave us classes for a week or something like that. We were sitting there— (laughs) reading his poems like crazy. And he— Unless you heard Duncan talking, you wouldn't know what it was like. But he just— God. We'd never heard anybody talk like that before in our lives or spin off the names of people we'd have to read (laughs). Amazing. And he came up a couple of times, and then this became— Somehow or another, Warren managed to snuffle his way through the English department and find some money to bring other people up so, then other poets from the San Francisco area would come up, and there was sort of this Vancouver-San Francisco thing that's always been there. And music and everything. And we just got to hear these wonderful guys and then that culminated in the 1963 summer school of poetry, right? Christ. (laughs) "Will I go to Charles Olson's class this afternoon, or should I go to Allen Ginsberg's class?" (laughs). Oh, God.

Jason

00:29:48.6

So, how much, when you came to Montreal, like was your involvement in the series about bringing that model, right, of readings to Montreal?

George

00:29:58.0

(overlaps) Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I thought, "Oh, these are the guys," right? So I come here, and because I'm the poet-in-residence I have to do a poetry class, right? He has a poetry class, Artie Gold and Dwight Gardener. And I'm thinking, "Aw, shit. I mean, here I am, I come to Montreal. These people have, so far, during the time I've been here, nobody knows the names of all these people I keep talking about all the time, right?" So I go into that, and I think, "Oh, that's too bad." But then I find out that these two guys, Artie, who grew up here, and Dwight who grew up in Alberta, their two favourite poets are Frank O'Hara and Jack Spicer, right? (both laugh). Wow, yeah! That was really good. There other people in the class, too, as well. There was one guy I had to throw out. I never threw anybody out. That was the only person I'd ever actually gotten mad and thrown out of the class and said, "You can't come back."

Jason

00:30:58.0

What did he do?

George

00:30:59.2

He was just being an asshole. That's all I'll say about— Constant— Look at me, being an asshole sort of thing. So he goes, right? God, I didn't think I had the nerve to do that, but I did (laughs). Mm. Then I got a job teaching here by the skin of my teeth. And then stayed for three years and then got a Canada Council grant, didn't come back. But that was the same way I left Calgary, got a Canada Council grant and didn't come back (laughs). I thought I was going to do that for the rest of my life, but then things got a little bit tighter, it got a little harder, the market got a little harder to break into, right? 'Cause I thought all my life I would teach somewhere two, three years then leave, and I wanted to go to the Maritimes, so on. Yeah.

Jason

00:31:42.8

(overlaps) Yeah, everywhere. So was the idea of, like, really living in a whole bunch of different places in Canada important to your idea of what it meant to be a poet in Canada? Like, was that part of it? Or it was just more for the change and adventure?

George

00:31:54.5

(overlaps) Eh, no, I... It was— I was becoming more and more nationalistic politically. Not in terms of literature, but certainly in, like— Yeah, I wouldn't go along with that horseshit, those (pause) those national fascist Robin Mathews guys.

Jason

00:32:11.2

(overlaps) Right, the Canadianization guys.

George

00:32:12.5

Yeah, they thought— It was imperialism, right? Yeah, "Imperialism, our main hero," Charles Olson says. Dig where you are at the moment and know more about it than anybody else does, right? Well, I happened to be in Vancouver (laughs). Now, it was more (pause)— It was more just general politics and becoming more and more disgusted with American foreign policy and so on. And 'cause when I was a kid I want to be in America. I was gonna grow up and change citizenship, right? Two of my grandparents had been Americans who had escaped from there, and I was gonna like actually go back and so, oh, boy. Because when I was a kid growing up in a small town next to the US border, all my, everything, radio, comic books, everything was American, right? So I just wanted be— That's what I wanted to be. I used to think, "What bad luck to be in the one-eleventh of the American-Canadian population that's not American," right? And then, later on, "What good—?" (both laugh) But, yeah , I just wanted to see the whole country and work in the whole country, right? I'm still kind of wishing I'd been able to live in Newfoundland. I didn't get to go to Newfoundland. Four times I was set up to go to Newfoundland to do some reading, I think, something like that, and only on the last one did I actually make it. That was, I don't know, six or seven years ago. But, oh, jeez, it's wonderful (laughs) (in Newfoundland accent) "Jesus, it's wonderful!" (Both laugh). It's really great. And they don't have the kind of— The poets that are there, the writers that are there, they're not anything like the kind of writers I'm interested in, right? But they're there, and there're so many of them, and it's so wonderful, you go into a bar, there's the musicians, right? And they're like everywhere you go. Go into the legion. We're in the west coast and we go into this legion, there's three of the band members from the something family, including grandpa, and then three of the band members from another family. They've joined together, and they're playing (imitates music) and stuff like that, and it's wonderful, and you go, "Ah!" and it’s just normal for them. Just a Sunday afternoon at the legion, right? That's it. They just expect that. There's a tall Chinese woman standing there watching them, right? And I think, "Hey, oh, neat! She's— Like, I wonder if she's from here or what, right?" She's interested in that shit-kicking music or whatever. A few minutes after that, she's up there whispering into the ear of Grandpa something, right, who's like playing the guitar. And he says, "Sure." And she whips out her fiddle.

Jason

00:34:45.4

And she's amazing?

George

00:34:46.5

Holy Jesus. (both laugh) And that, you know, happens to you every day in Newfoundland. Just wonderful. Just wonderful. But, but, you know, it's too late now (laughs). Oh, yeah, sorry.

Jason

00:34:58.00

(overlaps) So, coming back to... No, to Robin Mathews for a second, and sort of this idea— Not to talk about his argument, but about the idea of, sort of, debates about national identity as they related to basing arguments about poetics, and how they sometimes converged, sometimes didn't. Coming back to that group of, sort of, young, post-Layton Montreal poets, right, and also especially to the place of, say, Pound and Williams in relation to east and west. It's not like Pound and Williams had no influence on Montreal poets, right? Or even like—

George

00:35:33:3

Oh, Dudek was, yeah.

Jason

00:35:34.5

Dudek was a huge Poundian, you know? Williams introduced Irving Layton— One of Irving Layton's first books, you know?

George

00:35:35.4

(overlaps) Yeah, I heard a story about that, Layton, yeah. (laughs) There was a story about that.

Jason

00:35:45.3

You can tell it to us if you like. But Layton also was, you know, a correspondent for some important years with Creeley, and so it's not like they were unaware of these trends in American poetry.

George

00:35:53.7

(overlaps) You know what? (Pauses) What's his name, Milton Acorn's— His book there from Contact Editions is dedicated to Leroy Jones. Yeah, yeah.

Jason

00:36:12.0

(overlaps) Right. So there were, I mean— So it's not like they were unaware of some of the poets that were very important to the west coast, but there's a completely different use of them, right? Or, you know, and sort of understanding of that. So— And then there are poets like Al Purdy, right, who seems to be in a different category altogether.

George

00:36:36.0

He's strange. He and I disagreed about everything, but we were really close friends. You know, we wrote each other all the time and, yeah, we just disagreed about almost everything, so (laughs). Except a little while, if you look in his letters, you see him beginning to say, "I sort of get what you're meaning, yeah. I might've been a little bit (laughs), yeah.

Jason

00:36:59.2

So, one question that comes to mind is around, sort of, I guess, ways of describing poetry, you know? And in Purdy, in your monograph on Purdy, which you were writing in 1970, so right at the time of the series, right? And Purdy came in and you introduced him, I think when he was in town, but I'm not sure if you were responsible for inviting Purdy. It wasn't part of the program that I associate with you, you know,

George

00:37:07.8

(overlaps) Oh, that's not easy (laughs). Yeah, yeah. I was responsible for inviting him to Vancouver in the early sixties and that was one of the reasons that Creeley wanted to punch me out (both laugh).

Jason

00:37:35.4

But you describe, you know, him as working in a still lyric tradition, right? As opposed to, like, what you guys were doing, right? And you could say Layton was working in a lyric tradition, or that Montreal largely, or maybe Dudek aside, is identified with the lyric tradition. Certainly Leonard Cohen, right? Yeah, so, what was the status of, I guess, lyric poetry in relation to these questions about poetics on the one hand and national identity in the broader sense? [Unclear audio]

George

00:38:04.4

Well, we were all learning to get out of that tradition ourselves (laughs). Some of us never even got into it, like Fred Wah. (pauses) Al had published Poems for all the Annettes that, again, a Contact Press book, and it was— He had published a couple of books before that, which were really stiff, really sort of English nature poet stuff, right? Kind of, even using florid language.

Jason

00:38:46.0

He says in the introduction to his reading that he gave around 1970 or so, "When I started writing," he says, "the only poet writing was Bliss Carman." As though he had— As though there were no other poets in the world except for Bliss, which is such an odd thing to say.

George

00:39:04.1

(overlaps) A poet whom I'd never heard of.

Jason

00:39:05.9

(laughs) Really?

George

00:39:06.8

Yeah. And G.K. Chesterton was one of his guys, right? So... See, he was guy in a small town who dropped out of school and was picking up his poetry willy-nilly. Same as me, right? The was a— In that, he starts to— He started to open up in that Poems for all the Annettes into a direction that kind of resembled ours in a way, right? There were a lot of poems in the book that were still back there, but some of them were doing this. And he almost did that in the next couple books, then he went back to being "I'm the poet who has two pages to tell you what I'm seeing here, about this," right? Good stuff, but not that tradition, right? Ah, I'm still involved in saving the A-frame, but (laughs) yeah. And I was really— That's what started me and Al writing as we did all our lives, that paying attention to each other, and reviewing each other and that shit, right? Even though he was not much— He wasn't fond of the company I kept (laughs). Made fun of them all the time, right? And I was always giving him a hard time. I managed to get him posthumously in an essay I wrote a Purdy conference in Ottawa a couple of years ago (laughs, snaps). It's going to be in my new book coming out this week, in which I get to tell him he's full of shit, right? (laughs) And he can't say anything back. It's in the form of a letter.

Jason

00:40:39.9

Oh, really?

George

00:40:40.4

To Al. I gotta give you that. Last— I don't know if it was the last time I saw him. I saw him about a week before he died. Coming into his place over on the Island, and he's in his wheelchair with a thing up his nose, and as soon as I come in he says, (imitating Purdy) "Hey, Bowering, what's the most you ever got paid for a poem in a magazine?" (both laugh) He'd published a poem in a wonderful magazine that I used to like that Imperial Oil put out, Imperial Oil Review, it was called. Great magazine. I don't know how much he got because afterwards, after he died, his wife said that every time he told that story it went up by five hundred bucks (both laugh). I think he told me it was twenty-five hundred bucks. It's just— So he got me then, right? As far as he knew when he died, he got in the last word and he got me, right? So I had to come back. (pause) Yeah, his correspondence between him and me would be really interesting for me to sit back and read, you know, just from the beginning to the end. That would really be something. But he (pauses). Yeah...

Jason

00:41:56.6

But speaking of a Canadian, you know, poetic identity.

George

00:41:58.4

(overlaps) He's not in— He's not in that collection at Simon Fraser, right?

Jason

00:42:01.7

Right. Oh, yeah, yeah. Which is interesting. I mean, 'cause he— So he was wearing the Canadian cape probably more than any poet, like at that time, and in a certain way, he represented Canadian poetry.

George

00:42:11.2

(overlaps) I think more justifiably than most 'cause he travelled all over the country, lived all over the country. He was interested in looking at bookstores all over the country and talking about that. That late-life [unclear audio] poem of his called "Say the Names," which Jean really loves, right, it's got the names of all these places all over— Which, if you— You know, if you'd gone to most poets, Montreal, whatever, they wouldn't know half of them, right?

Jason

00:42:40.0

They knew their own little area.

George

00:42:41.4

I think, I think so. Yeah. Al was a great man. Very— But I never agreed with him about hardly anything (laughs).

Jason

00:42:53.1

How would you describe him as a reader? You introduced him. You heard him read in this series. I don't know if you remember that.

George

00:42:58.9

I heard him read so many times. (laughs) (imitating Purdy) "He was a very comfortable man." (both laugh) I've written a translation of his poem "At the Quinte Hotel," the one where he says "I'm a sensitive man" all over. (imitating Purdy) "I'm a sensitive man." Except this one takes place in the pub I used to go to in Vancouver and Gerry Gilbert shows up in the end, right?

Jason

00:43:26.2

(laughs) But he has a distinctive voice in the way he delivers his poetry. It’s folksy, sort of.

George

00:43:29.0

(overlaps) Oh, for sure. I'll tell you somebody who reads in a rhythm, a rolling rhythm, like Al.

Jason

00:43:37.8

David?

George

00:43:37.9

Dave. Yeah. (voices rolling rhythm) He does it, you know?

Jason

00:43:45.6

Is it a small-town Ontario thing? Or is it a— Like, where does it come from?

George

00:43:50.2

I don't know. I'm pretty sure he didn't pick it up off of Al.

Jason

0:43:54.4

No, I don't think so.

George

00:43:55.2

So it has to come from somewhere else. And, I don't know. I don't know what it is, but I've always remarked that. I didn't think about that until you just mentioned that.

Jason

00:44:03.2

Yeah, I think you're right about that.

George

00:44:05.5

You know, just thinking of that, there are two poets who had identical voices on the radio. One was James Rainey [could not verify name] and the other one was Chris Dewdney. Identical voices. Couldn't tell them apart. They were both from Southwest Ontario, both from London, Ontario. I don't know if that had anything to do with that. I don't think he's his illegitimate son (both laugh). But I can't tell them apart, in hearing them, right? Yeah, funny. The used to say that when Greg Curnoe and I were on the radio, you couldn't tell which one— Greg, and me, and Peter Gzowski did a few times on the radio. "We don't know who said that!"

Jason

00:44:49.8

(overlaps) Yeah, Peter Gzowski (both laugh).

George

00:44:54.0

And of course then we would start talking like each other. It was hopeless. It was wonderful (chuckles).

Jason

00:45:00.5

So do you remember who some of the first poets you invited to the series were? Like in, I guess it would have been— In sixty-seven you must have inherited a program that was already— Or I don't know.

George

00:45:11.8

Yeah. Oh, one year had gone by with— The only one I went to was mine. So I didn't go to any of those first-year ones. God, there was so much...

Jason

00:45:17.4

(overlaps) Right. Yeah, that first year, there was— Sixty-eight it was, so, Creeley— Yeah, so Layton and Creeley. Well, Creeley read twice.

George

00:45:27.8

(overlaps) I was at Creeley's. Yeah. Oh! He sat on this bench reading quieter, and quieter, and everyone in the crowd was coming up to him like this, and he was reading quieter, and quieter, and quieter.

Jason

00:45:36.9

(laughs) Really?

George

00:45:37.0

Wonderful, yeah.

Jason

00:45:37.5

But that was the second time that he read in the series.

George

00:45:39.6

Oh, yeah.

Jason

00:45:40.1

The first time he read was the year before you arrived, because Layton was writer-in-residence, right, the year before you came. So you, in a way, took Layton's spot, right? And Layton's farewell reading happened about three weeks after he had invited Creeley up to read. So Creeley read in sixty-seven before you got there, and then you read after.

George

00:46:02:1

Oh, I have a story. I can tell you a story that you probably don't know about that reading. That— I was in that. Apparently, Layton was going on and on and on in this introduction, right? And he— Creeley— Either— I forget whose cigar it was. One of them had a cigar, and Creeley was waiting and waiting for the introduction to get over, and one of them put the cigar in a drinking glass to put it out. And Layton (imitates spitting).

Jason

00:46:36.5

Oh, no! Right, and took a swig of it?

George

00:46:38.7

Yeah, yeah. Howard and Stanton told me that (laughs). Oh, there were great— People, like I said, that year, John Wieners was there, Robert Kelly was there, Margaret Avison was there. God, I wish I had been there for that.

Jason

00:46:51.2

But then, the next year—

George

00:46:53.0

But I was in London, Ontario. What could I do?

Jason

00:46:55.2

The next year, BpNichol, Lionel Kearns, right? But Earle Birney, did you invite Earle Birney? Or did—

George

00:47:02.3

Yeah. And Earle came when the FLQ crisis was on. And there were police in the streets, and he had to get into the hall building with a police escort to get through demonstrators and everything. And he said (laughs), he said, "I wish this happened all the time," or something like that. He said, "I wish—" He said he kind of— He said he wished that that was about him (laughs).

Jason

00:47:33.2

(laughs) Right. Like, needed a police escort (laughs) to enter the building.

George

00:47:37.4

I forgot that he'd been here, yeah. That's right. Yeah, yeah. Wasn't— Daphne Marlatt came some time. She must have, you know, one time...

Jason

00:47:45.0

Um, I think she did. I think you're right. Oh, yeah. That would have been 1970. Same year as Al Purdy and David Bromige.

George

00:47:55.6

Oh, right!

Jason

00:47:56.3

And Frank Davey, and Joel Oppenheimer, and McClure, and Creeley was in seventy. And Duncan.

George

00:48:03.3

And when was Robin Blaser?

Jason

00:48:06:1

Robin Blaser, I think, was in nineteen sixty-nine. So it was also when you were there. I mean, the list of when you were involved is pretty much— is mostly a list that we would associate with you.

George

00:48:20.0

There were some people that were not. There was woman poet, American woman. I remember she was so smashed I had to help her through the revolving door at the Ritz-Carlton. She was one of the ones that Stan really liked that I wasn't connected to. But she was good. She's a very famous American poet, but I can't remember her name.

Jason

00:48:41.0

Oh, I don't see... Yeah, maybe I don't have— There are some readings that are missing. But, so you were describing to me yesterday BpNichol as a run-through with Lionel Kearns that they did in Ottawa the night before or something like that.

George

00:48:51.1

(overlaps) He and Lionel, yeah. Yeah, at Carlton, yeah. They had— I don't know if they had ever met each other before then. They might have. It's quite possible they had. Lionel didn't travel around the poetry circles then as much as everybody else did, and now he doesn't at all. Hardly. Very seldom. Yeah, 'cause he's almost always in Spain, the lucky bastard (laughs). But, yeah, and then they read together. That was the one I told you where at half-time most of the major elder poets left. Except John Glasgow. I loved him for that.

Jason

00:49:31.0

(overlaps) Right. Yeah, you were saying. So like Scott, Dudek...

George

00:49:37.1

(overlaps) Scott, and Dudek, and AJM Smith I think was there.

Jason

00:49:41.1

And was it 'cause they were offended by what they were doing?

George

00:49:43.9

They just thought that sound poetry was horse shit. They didn't think it was real poetry.

Jason

00:49:46.1

(overlaps) Right. But Glasgow seemed genuinely interested in what he was doing.

George

00:49:50.6

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, he was a neat guy. He later on became my wife's bootlegger (both laugh). Yeah, it's true. Now he lives up on Lake Magog or somewhere... He lived in— I remember the name of the place. Foster. Foster, yeah. He had an American guy who flew his liquor onto the lake and then Buffy had a little suitcase that when you opened up, it was two martini glass spaces, and a gin space and a little, what do you call it? When you put martinis...

Jason

00:50:27.0

Vermouth?

George

00:50:27.6

Yeah. So he'd bring it into... 'Cause that's what my wife liked drinking, right? And they talked to each other a lot. Like, they were always— Like, she knew him a lot better than I did, actually, Angela did. But I don't think— I don't— Did Glasgow read in our series?

Jason

00:50:43.7

No, he didn't.

George

00:50:44.9

Yeah, he should have.

Jason

00:50:46.1

Yeah, it would have been interesting.

George

00:50:47.8

Yeah.

Jason

00:50:48:0

Did he attend a lot of the readings?

George

00:50:49.7

Some. I don't think a lot, but—

Jason

00:50:52.5

He was still living in the townships, I mean, because then he ended up moving— He lived on Mountain Street, I think.

George

00:50:54.8

No, he had that— He had that— He had a pied-de-terre down somewhere around here. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jason

00:50:59.9

Yeah, right downtown, right nearby.

George

00:51:02.0

And he had a restaurant that we always— that became our restaurant.

Jason

00:51:04.6

Le Mas d'Oliviers? Or...

George

00:51:07:1

I was (pauses). It was a south of France restaurant. It was down below Sainte Catherine's.

Jason

00:51:13.4

Yeah, Le Mas D'Oliviers. It's still there, in fact. We could have gone there. No, 'cause there was— I've seen photos of him in front of that restaurant.

George

00:51:14.5

(overlaps) Is that where that— No, that doesn’t sound like that name. Oh, maybe it is.

Jason

00:51:19.7

'Cause he used to live, I think, just above it. Just here, right?

George

00:51:22.7

Yeah, yeah. He and— What was his wife's name? Olive? I forget her name. (whispers) Strange person. Starved herself to death. Yeah, that was such a neat restaurant, that one. My parents came on their only trip ever to the east. I made sure I took my dad to Jarry Park, and we took him to that restaurant. I was astonished at these people! They were eating stuff that I wouldn't eat (laughs). Yeah, funny. Hmm.

Jason

00:51:58.2

I'm just going to— The Earle Birney reading. So Earle Birney was obviously pretty well known when he came here. And you already knew him from out west?

George

00:52:03.3

(overlaps) Yeah, yeah, yeah. Probably, like, the argument was whether he or Irving Layton were the most famous poet. Yeah.

Jason

00:52:12.7

Yeah, exactly.

George

00:52:16.0

Yeah. We had Phyllis Webb, didn't we? Yeah. My goodness (both chuckle).

Jason

00:52:23.0

Yeah, is there— Was there a difference in the way the women poets read than the men?

George

00:52:31:7

Nah.

Jason

00:52:32.3

No? It wasn't really about that at all?

George

00:52:34.6

No. We always are reminded that in those early days, in the sixties, the New American poetry, for instance, only about five women into he whole anthology. And TISH, all five editors were guys. Although we had women writers who our friends and helped us produce things, they just didn't want to be editors. And we always said, "We would like (chuckles), you know, more women poets to come up and blah, blah, blah" but they just weren't— like Daphne. Daphne came to us when she was still in high school (chuckles). One of the women poets we had turned out to be a famous playwright and so on and so forth. They just weren't there. But it is true if you look around they whole country, among the famous Canadian fiction writers, more than their share, if there is such a thing, were women. But in the poetry scene it wasn't that way. So the reading series, I would guess— My guess would be at least two-thirds was men.

Jason

00:53:43:7

Yeah, if not more.

George

00:53:45.3

But I don't remember there being any sense that there was any difference between— That a difference would be made by whether there were men or women. Or gay or not gay or whatever. Just it happens that if you go to the— It's really important that the San Francisco poetry scene was mainly gay. Ninety percent gay, or— That was actually part of their poetic. It had to be, and so everybody understood that. There was so sense of, "Oh—" Like the Canada Council does, "We've got to make sure that this committee has so many Maritimers, so many women, so many Aboriginals, so many gay people," etecetera, right? There wasn't that sense at all. And certainly I don't remember anybody being excluded for any reason for that reading series. Not unless it was, you know, say, Robin Mathews (chuckles).

Jason

00:54:44.5

Was it Muriel Ruykeser that you were thinking of?

George

00:54:46.9

(overlaps) That's who I was talking about. She's a very good poet, major poet, but not part of my tradition. But Howard and I think maybe Stanton thought she was really, really important.

Jason

00:54:57.1

Stanton was plugged into some interesting American work.

George

00:54:59.0

He was. He has a crazy— He was the only other person I knew who used to read Jerome Charyn. He a complete collection of Jerome Charyn and I had a complete collection of Jerome Charyn. I've now met one other person who has. But he's originally an Argentinian (both laugh). So Stan knew what was going on, but he also had his eye open to other traditions as well. Curiously, he came out of Conrad.

Jason

00:55:38.6

Yeah, yeah. It's true. So one thing—

George

00:55:34.3

So was Coach. Coach came out of Conrad. What's going on here? (laughs)

Jason

00:55:38.8

That is interesting. I didn't know that about him.

George

00:55:40.5

Did we have Coach?

Jason

00:55:41.6

No.

George

00:55:42.2

Yeah, I didn't think so. Why didn't we?

Jason

00:55:45.0

Why? Yeah, was he on the radar at that time?

George

00:55:48.8

Must have been. But wait a minute—

Jason

00:55:51.0

Nah, you're right. But maybe just a little bit later he would have been. It's a little to early.

George

00:55:53.6

Yeah, you're right. You know what? The first time I met him was when I got a Governor General's award for poetry, he got a fiction, and that was nineteen seventy. Yeah.

Jason

00:56:04.4

Okay, so right around then.

George

00:56:05.5

(overlaps) It was for the year sixty-nine/seventy. It was for the year sixty-nine and in the year seventy, back when I was in Ottawa. That was the first time I ever met him, so— and I don't think I had really read any of his books before then. Later on he became (pauses) the greatest— like, the best living poet in the country when he was still living. So much so that, like, when he— He got killed on way back from the first ever writers' thingamajig in Canmore, Alberta and they asked me to be the second one before that, and I said, no, I wouldn't do it. And then— I don't know why it was. But when I heard that he got killed, I said, yes, I would do it. And then I thought— Somebody said, "Drive carefully." Somebody said, "Drive carefully" to the young woman that was driving the car. Yeah, so. But no, I still— (pauses) We didn't have Sheila Watson. But that's probably because she hardly ever read. Like, I have a tape from her first-ever reading of The Double Hook, and that was many years after it was published.

Jason

00:57:15.5

So poets were sort of on tour to some extent or something, right? Like really travelling around, reading all the time.

George

00:57:23.5

Yeah. Quite often the guys that were coming, especially the Canadians, but a lot of them would be from the west coast and Toronto, and there would be readings here and there while they were doing this thing, yeah. It made a lot of sense. Especially when you had the Canada Council running things, right?

Jason

00:57:38.8

And they would get paid something, or put up, or taken care of to some extent?

George

00:57:43:6

Yeah, except here, where you were put up at the Ritz-Carlton (laughs).

Jason

00:57:46.1

Yeah. This was a good series to read in, if you could get the gig.

George

00:57:50.1

When, I was put in there, I ordered a milkshake on room service. (whispers) It was a great milkshake (both laugh). They also made the second-best martini in town. The best being made by F.R. Scott. I took Allen Ginsberg to meet F.R. Scott (laughs). We were driving out to the party which I think was supposed to be, I think, at Howard's place. And on the way— He lived on— Scott lived on Greene, I think, and we stopped and I took Allen Ginsberg in and introduced them and so forth, right? 'Cause Frank wasn't coming to the party. And I also introduced Creeley to Scott, and that was one of my greatest moments in history, because it was the first time I'd ever introduced two poets to each other who only had two eyes between them (both laugh). I don't know how many people can say that (laughs).

Jason

00:58:43.5

Did— I mean, I'm assuming that Scott knew who Ginsberg was.

George

00:58:48.9

(overlaps) Oh, sure.

Jason

00:58:49.7

But did Ginsberg know who Scott was?

George

00:58:51.5

No, I don't think so. No.

Jason

00:58:53.3

Probably not. Did Creeley know who Scott was? Through Layton, maybe.

George

00:58:56.6

I kind of doubt it. Yeah. 'Cause I remember when A.J.M. Smith came out with a book of poems, selected poems, for the first time— I'd forgotten all about this. First time for years, Creeley was at the time teaching for one year at UBC and George Woodcock gave Creeley A.J.M. Smith's poems to review. And Creeley had never heard of A.J.M. Smith, but he said to George, "I don't know if I can review this guy's poems, because he's got a dead ear." And so the review was given to somebody else to do, yeah (laughs). Yeah, I totally agree with him. But that's how intense it was, how belief and understanding and loyalty and stuff were. Like, you could get into big trouble (laughs) in my crowd for saying the wrong thing or not doing the work or something. I was very— I was a friend of John Sinclair's, the American poet, and he became the manager of MC5. And I was down in Detroit and there were two bands, there was Motor City Five, and there was another group who was just as good as them and well-known. Like, each of them had singles on the jukeboxes. Another one's called "Northbound Freeway" and there were other bands. And the MC5 guys, they used to go to other people's concerts when they were playing, and if they didn't like what they see, they would just yell, "Play the fucking music!" (laughs). Like if a guy was faking it, right? And that has happened, like, while somebody was reading, like, somebody'll just say— 'Cause they love the guy, right, and they don't want him to mess up. And so they'd give him shit, right, for it. I don't think that tradition, like, that seriousness, devotedness, or smart-alecness, maybe— It might have been over— Like, we were young people who might've been thinking a little much of ourselves doing that, but you know, it was seriously, you'd do your work or whatever.

Jason

1:01:22.6

You used the word "commitment" before, which often is used for political associations even more than poetics. You know, this story of MC5 is interesting, because it really emerges out of a political community. I'm interested in talking about community a little bit and how it relates to what you were just talking about. Like, MC5, they were the band that played the Democratic convention, right? But they were really, you know, they—

George

1:01:45.7

Well, they were also kind of the rainbow party, right?

Jason

1:01:47.6

Yeah, that's right. So they were associated with a political movement. And so there's, like, commitment to your art, commitment to, in this instance, rock, you know, to your music, and commitment to your poetics, you know, all seamed together.

George

1:02:02.1

And not like being— There was this other band, this really much, much more popular band in Detroit at the time. Somebody and the— Mitch Ryder and the something Wheels. They were, like, you know, hip, right? But they were fake, right? Just awful. They were just trying to play what had made it before, right? Oh, they got successful playing, "We'll play this," right? (laughs) And that's what I've always hated in moviemaking, painting, poetry, music, any of that shit. Architecture, right? Say, "Oh, because that's what the marketeers are interested in." And they're the people that kill music. They have the way of coming around. It was Gertrude Stein says, "When you first do it, it's ugly. And then it gets not so ugly. People start— Then it becomes beautiful. By that time you'd better be somewhere else." Right? And then Hemmingway came and said the same thing. But it was Gertrude Stein who told him that, right? One way she said— Another way she said was, "If you can do it, why do it?" (laughs) And I've said that to people. I said that to a person in greater Toronto just last week. And they said, "Who are you talking about?" Right?

Jason

1:03:26.9

(overlaps) Right. Doesn't even compute.

George

1:03:28.0

Like, their idea of success was selling a lot of books or something like that, right? And they couldn't believe that a person would— And everybody I know is like that, like that a person would rather not— You know, we used to— Like at TISH, we used to like get— Sometimes we would get a poem sent to us by a really well-known poet who had done some really good work. And we would write back and they wouldn't understand us. And we would write, "That poem you sent us was really, really good. But it's not a— It's not one of our poets. It's not one of our poems. It's not..." They couldn't understand that. Like these are people— You've seen the little magazines that say, "We don't have any axe to grind. We publish the best of any kind of work we get," kind of thing. Well, why do you do that? There are already forty-five magazines that do that, right?

Jason

1:04:19.5

Yeah, you were defining a poetics an aesthetics [?]. I mean, and so coming back to this question of community, you say something in the intro to the reading you gave in seventy-four. I think it's before you're about to read from Autobiology, and you talk about how readings in Vancouver, you know, you'll read a whole book, you know, and then you'll read it again and people will tolerate that, right? You know, and you say, "Well, this just because everyone is a volunteer." You know? Like, in a sense, everyone's part of this community, like you were saying before, like will get mad at you if you don't read it right or whatever. In Concrete Island, which is a book you wrote sort of partly while you were here, it's about Montreal, it's a little— I know they're [?] little poems, but it's interesting for what it says about what you perceive the Montreal poetry scene to be, because you describe them as "without community" in that book, you know.

George

1:05:14.7

Yeah, that was a little bit snide, I guess, but—

Jason

1:05:16.8

Well, you know, you were saying it as you saw it, and it was written from the perspective of someone who understands community as something very different from what you found here. So when you're— So what role did the series have in sort of, as an attempt to create a kind of community of its own?

George

1:05:33.8

(sighs) A lot of it was just trying to expose to the locals, or the university people, or the city probably more so, what was going on in this wonderful planet that I used to live in (laughs). You know, and certainly Roy Kiyooka, who is one of my great, boom, best poets Canada's ever done, there's a certain ethos that I always say the other two people in my family are Roy Kiyooka and Victor Coleman, who were writing serious serial poetry of a kind that other people weren't necessarily doing. So Roy, he knew all that. He knew what was good. He just knew, right? And he was an artist. He was a painter, a sculptor, who also was a great poet. Thought he was a great musician, stunk as a musician. (chuckles) That's where he went in his last phase, right? (laughs) But still interesting. What was the question, or was there one?

Jason

1:06:47.0

It was about community, like sort of trying to create the similar sort of community in Montreal.

George

1:06:48.5

(overlaps) Oh, yeah. Yeah, so to try and make it happen here, yeah. Yeah. It's a part of— For Roy, what it was, for Roy it would be part of teaching, right? "Here, I've got to show you these great paintings. I've got to show you this great [?] painting by so-and-so. Oh, come in and listen to Robert Duncan and what he has to say," right? And you haven't had the opportunity to do this before. He's not on television (laughs), right? The poetry revolution will not be televised (laughs). And so, how often did we do it? Every three weeks, something like that?

Jason

1:07:29.4

Yeah, in the first few years, yeah, it was every three weeks. It was quite often. It was amazing.

George

1:07:33.4

Yeah, it is. Yeah. Considering the amount of work it was to do it, right? Inviting them, and paying them, and putting them up and all that stuff, partying, and catering, and cars...

Jason

1:07:44.8

It's like a full-time job.

George

1:07:45.7

It was a lot of work, right? Especially in the wintertime (laughs). God.

Jason

1:07:49.8

Yeah. So how much was it a part of your regular pedagogy? Like, was it the main pedagogy?

George

1:07:55.4

The most important part.

Jason

1:07:57.2

Yeah, that was the biggest part of it, right? Pedagogy was a big part of the reading series.

George

1:08:00.9

Yeah. But I've always taught, when I'm teaching classes, my reading list was always made up of book and authors that my colleagues had never heard of (laughs). Or would never think twice about teaching. And quite often for me, I would put on a reading list, develop a theme for the reading list, or whatever it was, and put texts on there that I had never read. Because one thing I hated was the idea of teaching the same thing every semester or every year, 'cause you've already— What you want— That's why I didn't like teaching creative writing, 'cause except for the odd person, most of them it'd be stuff like, "I've read this before." You know, it's not getting me anywhere, I'm not going anywhere myself. So, I put stuff on— I put James Joyce's play one time on a class, 206 or whatever I was teaching, and I probably learned more than anybody else in the class, 'cause I was smarter than them, right? But, I mean more experienced than them in this literary thing. But that was important, and so this was something like that. It's not that much different, like, people I think are really, really important and that I get a kick out of myself. People there, right? 'Cause I figure being a professor, you've got to profess (laughs). That was actually what I did think when I was first doing that, I thought, yeah, that's the difference between a professor and a teacher. You profess an idea of some sort or another, right? So, and I believe that that's— I mean, Dante said that. Dante said poetry only lives if you're fighting with the other poets about poetry, right? He said it in Italian, but— (laughs).

Jason

1:09:49.3

Were you at the Jackson Mac Low reading?

George

1:09:52.2

No.

Jason

1:09:52.9

No, okay. That was maybe after you left.

George

1:09:55.7

I've never been at a Jackson Mac Low reading. He read at the— Every time he reads where I am, I'm not there. Like, he read at the Western Front...

Jason

1:10:00:3

(overlaps) Oh, really. Yeah, it was in seventy-one. Maybe you had already left by then. And Kenneth— No, but I think you were—

George

1:10:08.6

Was it the fall of seventy-one, maybe?

Jason

1:10:10.1

I'm not sure. I don't know if we have that one.

George

1:10:12.2

'Cause I left in May, seventy-one.

jason

1;10:14.9

Yeah. It was interesting 'cause most of it consists of him playing tapes, right? Yeah, and then he recruited people from the audience to do some multi, you know, voice stuff.

George

1:10:20.1

(overlaps) Yeah, against himself, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jason

1:10:28.1

Kenneth Koch, though, you were there for.

George

(overlaps) Kenneth Koch, I was there, too, yeah. Yeah. 'Cause we took him to an Argentinian restaurant, I remember that. (cell phone rings) Sorry. Koch was good. Yeah. I just read— Like his— The first book of his I ever bought was Ko, or a Season on Earth and I just read it. I bought it when it came out, but have been sixty-one, something like that, and I just read it (both laugh).

Jason

1:10:57.9

Like, you read that sixty-one edition? That's awesome.

George

1:11:00.4

(overlaps) Yeah, the same one I bought back then. Dollar ninety-five, I think it was. Something like that, yeah, yeah. God. It was good, too (laughs).

Jason

1:11:08.8

At one point in one of the intros or something, you refer to the propaganda sheets that we send around about the readings. Were these just with information on when they were taking place, or was there actually more info about the poets on them?

George

1:11:23.3

I think it was probably—

Jason

1:11:25.3

Just basic info?

George

1:11:26.6

Probably. I don't remember them. I don't— Yeah, yeah.

Jason

1:11:29.1

(overlaps) Oh, you don't remember those? I'm going to try to dig some up in the archives to see if we can find one, 'cause I'm just interested in the way the series was used to teach, like you're saying— Yeah, examples of poems or something.

George

1:11:38.2

(overlaps) We might have gave quotations from the poet, or maybe pictures, something like that. But I don't remember them at all (both chuckle). It was really quite, like, as I said, it took a lot of our hours, and not just us, but other people as well. And so it was really important, and we weren't getting paid extra for it (laughs), right? It was, like, part of our— part of what we did, in addition. So we were very devoted to it and I think we had a really strong sense that this was the way it should be. And one of the great disappointments in my life is that seldom has there been a series like that is that exciting to me, about— Like, in dealing with the— Not only, like, the regularity and the names of the artists. The one that Warren did in the Italian centre out in Vancouver that year was spectacular, right? And he— Basically, it was the same poets, except maybe a few others that had come along, a mix of American and Canadian. And what that was, like four poets every reading to a crowd of eight hundred (laughs). Filled the hall, right? The Italian hall. That was a marvelous— I can't remember. So it would usually be two Canadians and two Americans on each—

Jason

1:13:01.7

How long would they each read for?

George

1:13:03.6

Oh, each program went about three hours.

Jason

1:13:08.4

Yeah. I mean, that's the other remarkable thing about the series is how long the readings were, right? 'Cause that doesn't happen much anymore, right?

George

1:13:14.5

No, it doesn't.

Jason

1:13:15.3

The Coach House annual reading now is each poet gets three minutes to— It's sort of like a music video or something, a taster. Whereas here, you're really digging in and you could read a whole book or you could read, you know...

George

1:13:25.4

(overlaps) Yeah, sure. Yeah. I read— There was— When I was in London, Ontario, it was very strange, there was a really good arts and poetry scene there. Greek painters and so forth, poets. And they had energy going and they fed off each other and s forth. It was way different from the one I was used to, but I admired it a lot. It was more— It was less— Somehow less hip, but in some ways more adventurous. James Raimi one time got us together—he had done this before with Paradise Lost—he got us together and took Blake's Jerusalem, took it in four parts, each part takes an hour to read about, and we went to this art gallery that done for that sort of thing, and we just did it. People came and I read about three, something like that. I hallucinated! By the time I was most of the way through, I was totally hallucinating while reading, right? It was just a wonderful event. And apparently he had done this earlier with Paradise Lost, right, which takes twelve hours to read (laughs).

Jason

1:14:44.2

Yeah, well it's partly the oxygen issue, I think, you know,

George

1:14:47.1

Might have been. We had the windows open (laughs).

Jason

1:14:50.7

Well, when I was an undergraduate, Allen Ginsberg did come through to my— I was in a little college, so he came and read and to, about—

George

1:14:59.4

Where?

Jason

1:15:00.1

Forty of us. At Concordia, at the Liberal Arts College here.

George

1:15:01.5

(overlaps) Oh, oh. Oh, I see, yeah. Yeah.

Jason

1:15.03.9

And he was friends with a guy named Lazlo Gefin. Anyways, and he read some of his poems. He was working on these collaborative poems. He was teaching through Naropa Institute at the time, and it was a collection called Graphic Winces, and he was trying to get a kind of neurological wince-response out of you through those, you know? But he had us read Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" in unison, but four times in a row at the top of our lungs, right? And so by even the second time around, and you're screaming, we were also sort of buzzed, you know, to say the least, if not quite hallucinating.

George

1:15:40.8

You know he knew that poem by heart.

Jason

1:15:42.5

Yeah (both laugh).

George

1:15:44.9

He did. That was a curious thing that happened in the sixty-three summer. I thought I was just going to follow Olson around. I was just going to be, like, an Olsonite, just follow him everywhere he went. I would up following Ginsberg around. It was funny. He also did "Adonais." He recited "Adonais" in Stanley Park.

Jason

1:16:04.2

That's something. That's not a typical—

George

1:16:07.4

That's when I had just— I was just finishing my graduate degree, getting ready— (pauses) Oh, was it, sixty-three? Yeah. I was just getting ready to go teach for three years in Calgary, and then I went to start my PhD at Western. And I— He— I just followed what Ezra Pound was saying before, that saying, "The Romantics are just a bunch of blowhards, blah, blah. Who cares about them," right? And he got going on Shelley and so when I went to graduate school, that was my guy, Shelley, right? (laughs) It was 'cause Ginsberg did that. And, yeah, he read both of those poems— I mean, he recited both of those poems (laughs).

Jason

1:16:51.9

By heart.

George

1:16:52.8

And they're not short. I mean, they're not really short.

Jason

1:16:54.7

I mean, you listen to Ginsberg read— You wrote that sort of pamphlet essay How I Hear Howl. Remember that? And you said you wrote that out when you were in Calgary, maybe, around that time or something like that. So how important were poetry records, recordings at that time?

George

1:17:08.5

I had a lot of them (laughs).

Jason

1:17:09.8

Like, at that time, though, was that something that people were actually, you know—

George

1:17:13.0

They weren't— You couldn't find them everywhere, but there were quite a few of them made, and some of them by Folkways in the States, and a few other people. More in Britain, and more of the American— I got more British records—Stream was the name of the label, I think, of American poets—than I have of American. I got about ten Allen Ginsberg records, of course. But I've got Robert Duncan, and Ed Dorn, and Basil Bunting and so forth, all done in Britain. I've still got them. Vinyls, right? (laughs).

Jason

1:17:45.7

Right.

George

1:17:46.4

Yeah. And Kenneth Patchen, of course.

Jason

1:17:50.7

Yeah, he did a bunch of records.

George

1:17:53.5

That was a very important part the saying. 'Cause we kept saying— Lionel would go around saying, (imitating Lionel Kearns) "Poetry is like vocal art." (laughs) And like, we always said that is various ways 'cause we hadn't been taught that in high school. We had been taught that, you know, it's written down and blah, blah, blah and so forth. So we started saying that— We studied linguistics. That's one of the things all us poets out on the coast did. We all studied linguistics, so—

Jason

1:18:19.4

You, you understand— You understood things about speech prosody.

George

1:18:21.0

(overlaps) Yeah. They were very important to our poetry, right? And, of course, so did the San Francisco poets, right? And so that whole thing about— You know, that Kearns book that I published as part of my magazine has a drawing from a phonetics textbook of all this stuff, right? (laughs) Yeah, it was really important. And so the record business was, like, yeah, it was really important. 'Cause chances are I wasn't going to— Well, I got to hear most of the poets that were on these records, but not all of them, right? And I never got to hear Basil Bunting read live. Even though he came out to Victoria after I'd left. So to hear him reading "Briggflatts" is just (clicks tongue) wonderful. Yeah. And William Carlos Williams. It's too bad. The Williams one I think is on Folkways or something like that. It was made after he'd had his first stroke.

Jason

1:19:21.5

Yeah. His voice sounds very nasal in those recordings. Yeah.

George

1:19:24.0

(overlaps) Yeah, it was very high. Yeah, yeah. And halting, a little bit. Yeah, as a matter of fact, it's from that record where there's a little halting in his voice in reciting a poem, that Robert Duncan writes a poem with that haltingness in it. Right?

Jason

1:19:41.7

Oh, so he adapts the line, or rhythm or cadence of it.

George

1;19:45.2

Yeah, then he relates it to music that owls make and stuff like that (laughs). Yeah, yeah. So that was, yeah, that was important.

Jason

1:19:53.6

And you were— I mean, in this archive we have one tape that you made at home. right? We were mentioning it before, that you mailed to someone. And I'm not even sure who it is, who you're talking to. But let me play a clip from it, and you can tell me— Maybe you can identify who it is.

George

1:20:06.1

Oh (laughs). What if I don't know?

1:20:12.4

(recording playing) First of all, my apologies for being so late with the tape, and a footnote that the noise in the background, if there is any, will be my wife making supper.

Jason

1:20:27.3

Okay.

George

1:20:27.7

Did I make this in Vancouver or here?

Jason

1:20:29.2

I think in Vancouver.

1:20:30.3

(recording playing) First I'll read, first I'll read from my first book, Points on the Grid. (continues under following dialogue)

George

1:20:39.8

Hmm.

Jason

1:20:40.5

I'm assuming you made it Vancouver, sent it to Montreal, and that's how we have it here.

George

1:20:45.0

Hmm. Hmm. I don't remember who I would have done this for. (tape feeds back) Whoop! Oh! Was that me?

Jason

1:21:01.7

(laughs) It was a sound poem you were working on early on.

1:21:06.3

(recording playing) …side of the mountain rest

no cigarette as yet

but wrinkled orange out of the pocket

and looking out miles

over the suddenly widened town

the blue hazy valley

Okanagan

visions of giant straight glacier

recalls dream

of/

slipping

fingers

and/

drop

out of the airplane door

twitch

secret twinge

return to tracking coyotes

broom smell of sagebrush

rusted sardine can

horse buns

and barbwire fence

down for five years

another straight valley

a few miles

a ghost town

with old newspapers

Jason

1:21:48.8

Fantastic reading, by the way.

George

1:21:50.1

Gee.

Jason

1:21:50.4

I mean, this whole tape is stunningly read. I mean, it's really— I'm trying to identify—

George

1:21:54.3

(overlaps) Gosh (laughs). I remember that poem. God.

Jason

1:22:01.2

Like...

George

1:22:02.7

I wonder who I sent it to.

Jason

1:22:03.9

Here. (tape plays, distorted, continues under following dialogue) That's— The speed is wrong.

George

1:22:10.8

Oh, yeah.

Jason

1:22:12.4

(quoting recording) "Use it for someone else."

George

1:22:14.6

(laughs)

1:22:18.0

(tape playing, distorted) ...so late with this tape, and also if that does seem a loss, I'm sorry for not saying more things about poetry, I've been doing that less and less the further and further I've been getting away from Vancouver. So, Merry Christmas! (tape ends).

George

1:22:39.3

Merry Christmas.

Jason

1:22:40.2

You don't know— Who was the chair of the English department at Sir George?

George

1:22:43.3

"Getting away from Vancouver." Hmm. The chair of the English department was...

Jason

1:22:48.7

Well, you would have been at Calgary, maybe, when you made this tape, before you came to Montreal.

George

1:22:53.6

Oh, yeah.

Jason

1:22:55.1

Or maybe you were in Ontario, 'cause you— Maybe it was the year—

George

1:22:58.6

It would've gone to— The Chair was, like, Neil [Constant?]. Yeah. It might have gone to— Who was that woman that—

Jason

1:23:09.9

Oh, Wynne Francis.

George

1:23:11.0

Yeah, might have gone to her.

Jason

1:23:13.3

So maybe that's who you were sending it to. So it was sort of— It was possibly— I don't know. I was assuming it was maybe a kind of audition tape of sorts for a writer-in-residence position.

George

1:23:21.5

Nah, those guys— (pauses) I wonder... Why did those guys— Oh! Oh, they would have asked me because Roy would have told them to ask me.

Jason

1:23:31.0

Oh, okay.

George

1:23:31.7

Yeah. But then to be the writer-in-residence, I mean, they would have asked me for a reading. And then— No, because I heard from Stan and Howard vis-a-vis the "Would you be interested in being the—"

Jason

1:23:47.4

Oh, okay. Yeah.

George

1:23:48.0

Yeah. So it was from them that I first— So somebody had told them to ask me. So they must have told somebody we would be, you know, whatever.

Jason

1:23:56.0

Right.

George

1:23:56.5

Yeah. Thank goodness. I would have had to finish my PhD (laughs). Yeah.

Jason

1:24:04.4

But is this practice of making— You know, reading your poems at home, kind of thing, and sending them to people, was that something you did? No, that wasn't a regular—

George

1:24:10.0

(overlaps) No. Occasionally. Once in a while. But not very often. Sometimes people would send— Because everyone was getting a little excited abut tape recorders. The first cassette tape recorder I ever bought— See, I never even used to buy anything when it was new. I'd wait until it shook down, the prices came down. But when cassettes came out, I bought one immediately in Montreal. It was a Philips. Really, like, it didn't have keys to push, it had things to do this.

Jason

1:24:37.7

Oh, yeah? It was kind of—

George

1:24:39.1

But I had it 'cause I figured I'd need it one of these— Oh! I used it when I went and did my interview with John Lennon, yeah.

Jason

1:24:46:7

Oh. At the Queen Elizabeth in Montreal?

George

1:24:49.5

Yeah, yeah. I wish— Maybe that's why I bought it, 'cause I'd need it to— I bet you that's it. I bet you I needed it, you know, to get in there and so forth, yeah. 'Cause I was the Montreal correspondent for The Georgia Straight, so that's how I got in, right?

Jason

1:25:02.8

How did the interview go?

George

1:25:04.5

So I recently auctioned a copy of it for five thousand bucks. No, the original of it, actually. Yeah, I had an auctioned in England (laughs).

Jason

1:25:16.9

On the tape that you made with that tape recorder?

George

1:25:18.6

And then I paid my house taxes.

Jason

1:25:20.2

(laughs) Way to go.

George

1:25:22.1

Yeah, the tape cost, I think, fifty-nine cents.

Jason

1:25:25.1

(laughs) And it was still playable? Thank God.

George

1:25:26.8

(overlaps) And it was still playable. Yeah, it hadn't snapped or broken or anything. But here's the sad part. The other side of the tape was never transcribed and it was a discussion amongst a bunch of use writers at Coach House Press. So me, and Frank Davey, and Victor Coleman, Bp and I don't know who else.

Jason

1:25:46.0

Well, the person who purchased the Lennon tape should digitize both sides.

George

1:25:49.4

Yeah, Beatles collector, right?

Jason

1:25:51.2

(laughs) He doesn't care.

George

1:25:54.5

That was really neat. One thing that happened there that I found out was that Yoko Ono was an incredibly beautiful woman, and it never showed up in pictures. Like, she doesn't look like it in photographs or even movies, but in real life she was just beautiful (laughs). She's one of these people that the camera didn't work, you know, the camera works for some people. And just the camera didn't work for her. But yeah, that was a neat day. What would happen was they would let about three of us in at a time. There were people lined up— They were up on the seventeenth floor or whatever, twenty-seventh floor, and they would let in about three people at a time so that— I can't remember. There was one guy who came up who was I think from a local radio station, and he was like an anti-Beatles— He thought all this flower power stuff was horse shit, right? And he was one of use three, right, that was in the thing.

Jason

1:26:51.7

Wasn't Tommy Schnurmacher, was it? 'Cause I know that he interviewed— He's a radio broadcaster still now.

George

1:26:54.5

(overlaps) No, I don't think so. I didn't know who he was, actually.

Jason

1:26:58.7

Yeah, okay. Yeah.

George

1:26:59.6

Yeah. But it was quite neat, so it was— Yeah, it was nice. And then they went down and— They had done it already in in Amsterdam and they were going to go again and do it in Toronto, if I recall rightly. Montreal seemed like a— To me at the time it seemed like an odd place to do it, right? But they did it, so... God.

Jason

1:27:24.1

Well, I'm just looking at the time, and I want to make sure that we have time for— I have to be at the site at four o'clock, so in a half-hour.

George

1:27:25.4

(overlaps) So what do we got— Yeah. So when do I have to be somewhere? Seven.

Jason

1:27:36.9

Six-thirty.

George

1:27:37.9

Six-thirty.

Jason

1:27:38.2

Yeah, six-thirty, just, we'll do a sound check.

George

1:27:40.2

Where?

Jason

1:27:41.1

At H-one-ten.

George

(overlaps) I haven't got a piece of paper.

Jason

1:27:44.2

But I'm going to send someone to pick David and, you know, all of you guys up at once.

George

1:27:48.9

So we can all be over at the hotel.

Jason

1:27:50.1

Yeah, at around— Be ready for around six-fifteen and someone will come get you and walk you over, and that way you don't have to, you know, sit around to long before the reading at the place. It's going to be in H-one-ten, the Hall building, so you'll—

George

1:28:03.9

So the Hall— One-ten, where the hell is that? Is that on the main floor?

Jason

1:28:06.0

It's the main floor. The main hall. The big, big room on the main floor.

George

1:28:09.0

I used to teach in there.

Jason

1:28:10.3

Yeah. Sure, yeah.

George

1:28:11.5

One time I was in there and I was kidding— Like, I think the football program was pretty new. And I was making some smart-aleck remark— We used to walk around in front with a microphone, right? And I made some smart-aleck remark about how bad the football team was, right? And from way up in the back, a football came sailing down, and I watched it go by me, and I said, "As usual, incomplete." (both laugh) And they all applauded. That was— There are certain moments in your life when you like what you did.

Jason

1:28:46.4

So those were pretty large classes, then, that you were teaching. Lecture classes.

George

1:28:48.8

It was some kind of introductory course of some sort. Yeah.

Jason

1:28:53.1

And you'd fill the Hall building, the H-one-ten. Because that holds, like, several hundred people, that room.

George

1:28:58.8

That's where Duncan did his reading. Oh, God. Duncan, he was reading on a Saturday night. I think it was Saturday. Maybe Friday night. Either Friday night or Saturday night. And he called me up desperate the next day and said he had lost his current notebook with all his new poems in it. All this stuff in it, right? And so I jumped on my bicycle and rode in, and the place was locked, so I went around and finally got a janitor to let me in, and he followed me carefully and everything like this. I went into that hall, and I just started going through seats, right? And there it was, stuck down in a seat, right?

Jason

1:29:35.7

Oh, wow (both laugh).

George

1:29:37.8

If I'd been smart, I would've kept those (both laugh).

Jason

1:29:41.5

Well, when we go in there tonight, you'll be abe to show me which seat it was behind.

George

1:29:44.5

It was on the right-hand side.

Jason

1:29:46.0

Because it hasn't been renovated since then.

George

1:29:46.8

Oh, yeah? (laughs) I think that's where McClure read, and Duncan, and Ginsberg read.

Jason

1:29:56.7

Yeah. That was the biggest room available, I think, so—

George

1:29:58.8

Yeah, yeah, yeah. (chuckles)

Jason

1:30:02.2

Well, thanks so much for doing— We could go on— I could go on asking you questions for hours, but this was really—

George

1:30:06.8

Oh, I'm going to eat some cheese (laughs).

Jason

1:30:08.3

Yeah, you have a snack. It's time to eat and get some rest before the reading tonight.

George

1:30:14.7

And, of course, I didn't have a doughnut (both laugh). There was one right there that I didn't have (both laugh).

Jason

1:30:23.5

You never had a doughnut.

George

1:30:24.7

(groans)

Jason

1:30:28.2

Shall I stop this, Ashley?

Ashley

1:30.29.4

Yeah.

George

1:30:31.0

You have— Do you do— Is this what— (tape cuts)

[END OF RECORDING]

Interview: George Bowering – October 12, 2012

Interview
SpeakersGeorge Bowering(Interviewee), Jason Camlot (Interviewer), Ashley Clarkson (AV technician)
VenueConcordia University, LB Building 10th floor, Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling: interview lab
Date2012-10-12
Recording
Labelspoetry, spokenweb, oral history, bowering, Sir George Williams
Duration01:30:33
Sound qualityGood