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Tim Bowling

Poet staves off poverty in exotic Edmonton
Adam McDowell, National Post
Published: Thursday, May 01, 2008

Q Congratulations on being the only Canadian writer to win a Guggenheim Fellowship this year. What do you think won it for you?

A Thank you. This was my first application, so I was doubly surprised. I'd like to believe it's purely the quality of my poetry [that swayed the advisors]. I think maybe it's a benefit being outside of the United States. You're a bit of an unknown quantity, so they might judge you purely on the basis of your work. Being in Edmonton as opposed to other parts of Canada is even more off the radar. I don't know if it's exotic, but it might be to someone in New York.

Q What did you propose work on in your Guggenheim application?

A Poetry. I focused on that because it's really what I would prefer to work on. I specifically asked to write poems about my background in salmon fishing on the Fraser River. I'm pleased that the selection committee wasn't put off that I'm writing about a place that's not commonly written about in North American poetry.

Poems are never simply about what they're about. The Fraser River and salmon fishing is a way into the traditional poetic obsessions with mortality and time and memory. Q What does the award help you do?

A Well, it's a huge relief. I've lived for years pretty hand-to-mouth. It does exactly what the foundation's mandate is: It'll certainly allow me to finish a manuscript. I've got three kids, I'm always delighted when I can buy myself some time to write poems. I live pretty cheaply, so I can make US$46,000 go pretty far. The time it gives me is wonderful. Artists are always translating money into time.

However, my wife says poetry's a great motivator - wait, not poetry, poverty. You can see how close those words are. Q So you're all ready to write some poems now?

A You can't force poems, but they do come. They will come.