First Poet Laureate in Literary Leanings lineup 

George Bowering reading at Whistler Writers Group event

What: Literary Leanings 2005

Where: Uli’s Flipside Attic

When: Sunday, Feb. 20 & Monday, Feb. 21

What does a poet laureate sound like?

Measured and stuffy? A user of deliberately obscure vocabulary laced with a pretentious faux-English accent?

Or feisty, spry and candid? A spouter of aerobic phrases peppered with prankster humour, and an infectious, mischievous chuckle?

Canada’s first poet Laureate George Bowering is most definitely the latter and his participation in the Whistler Writer’s Group’s third annual Literary Leanings event this Sunday night guarantees a lively evening to say the least.

He’s officially a past Poet Laureate these days; his two-year term came to an end last November when the torch he lit is passed to Pauline Michel of Montreal.

"I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t been the first," he declares, his innate independent Western Canadian spirit intact even after extensive stays in the Ottawa area – his temporary employer’s home base. Despite the "miserable" weather, he deems the experience as "a lot of fun."

First Canadian Poet Laureate is only one of Bowering’s adjectives. He’s considered one of Canada’s most prolific writers with as many books published as he is years old (around 70)–not including volumes he has merely contributed to or edited.

He’s twice a winner of the Governor General’s Award: for works of poetry in 1969 for The Gangs of Cosmos and Rocky Mountain Foot and for fiction in 1980 for the novel Burning Water .

He’s taught at the University of Calgary and the University of Western Ontario and currently teaches at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

Despite the proximity of his current home, Sunday night will mark only his third ever trip to Whistler and his first trip during the winter. Of the previous two summer visits, one was a drive by en route to Cache Creek, the other for a public reading at the library.

"The library reading was kind of neat," Bowering declares, "because you saw people there who you were pretty sure were there before all this ski bullshit happened. Kind of like ‘the real Whistler.’"

No mincing words there.

Bowering pulls no punches on another subject near and dear to Whistler’s heart.

"I voted against the Olympics," he readily admits, after stating his intention to legally change his name to "Olympics Two-Thousand Ten" to see how long it would take him to get arrested. "They could call me ‘Ole’," he adds, (law abiding Norwegian immigrants take note).

Ironically, Literary Leanings is presented in conjunction with the Celebration 2010 Whistler Arts Festival – a month long extravaganza of local arts events in the years counting down to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Bowering is flippant when asked whether the upcoming event might have a positive effect on the literary arts.

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