Bowering leads literary tour

January 22, 2004, vol. 29, no. 2
By Julie Ovenell-Carter

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George Bowering fell in love with the “blue-lit landscape” of Greece as a young man making his first trip to Europe in 1966.

On that occasion, he travelled with one friend in a Volkswagen Beetle. This spring, he plans to return to the Mediterranean with a whole busload of companions.

From May 15-28, Bowering, a SFU professor emeritus in English and Canada's newly appointed parliamentary poet laureate, will host CanLit in Attica, a non-credit literary tour of Greece offered through SFU international. The informal tour, limited to 25 participants, will begin in Athens and travel through various ancient sites of literary significance such as Nafplion, Olympia, Delfi, Kalambaka, and Thessaloniki.

“This program should appeal to people who like to travel with their minds and not just their bodies,” says the spirited two-time Governor-General's award winner and author of more than 60 books of poetry and fiction. “If you've ever had the experience of reading a poem or a story about a place, and then actually going there, and then rereading the poem or story, you know how it totally reconstructs your notions of that place.

“When I was teaching, I used to tell my students the best way to get a head start on understanding a story set in a specific landscape was to go and see it for yourself.” He laughs: “If we were going to read a story set in Crete, I'd say, ‘If you get a chance over the weekend, go to Crete.'”

Bowering, a B.C. native now living in rural Ontario, says generations of Canadian writers have sought “learning and inspiration” in the Aegean. “Greece is a common landscape for Canadian writers,” he says, and his literary walkabout will cover ground described in the poetry and fiction of important Canadian writers such as Leonard Cohen, Al Purdy, Irving Layton, and Audrey Thomas. “So when we're in Delfi, for example, we'll be thinking and talking about Robert Kroetsch's long poem, Delphi: Commentary.”

Bowering's newest book, Standing on Richards, a collection of short stories, will be published by Penguin this spring.

An assortment of recent poems can be found at the poet laureate's web site: poems

To learn more about the tour, visit CanLit in Attica or call Brian Chand at 604-291-4494. The cost is $5,450 per person and includes return airfare from Vancouver, shared accommodation, breakfasts and in-country transportation.

Registration deadline is March 1, with payment due by March 31.

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