For the last 40 years, Brick Books has been publishing and celebrating some of Canada’s greatest poets. In honour of that milestone, they have invited lovers of literature to contribute reflections on pivotal reads, and the writers who created them. Please enjoy my reflection on the astonishing Tim Bowling’s ‘Paris, Springtime, Youth’ or, better yet, go out and track down some of his poetry. It’s an incredible example of how literature can be a compass in many ways.
Week 57 – Tim Bowling presented by Lara Bozabalian
There are times when I have been unnerved by Tim Bowling’s poetry. That is to say, his words have burrowed into me, only to reappear days, weeks, years later as scraps of line or image tacked onto whatever experiences I might be having. I didn’t expect “Paris, Springtime, Youth” to return to me in Bombay, but there it was – the invisible weight above and around me, the life happening everywhere and elsewhere, all at once. I wasn’t prepared for lines from it to reappear in my role as a new mother, looking back on my younger self. But that is what Bowling’s poetry does, remain relevant because it is steeped in the currents of human nature – to be lost, to be found, to float and ebb on our thoughts and realizations. It is an ocean, this life, and he paints our place in it as malleable, ever moving. Admirably, he includes himself in the dingy, rather than as an omniscient Sun, looks around at fellow passengers, at the detail in life jacket seams, conceives the seafloor, fathoms below. You don’t have to survive a shipwreck to earn his attentions, though his poems celebrate, with focus, in tenderness, that we are all castaways in some sense. It is this empathy that makes his work sing for me – I am reminded that, conscious or not, we are all, in some way, looking into and reflected back by the deep. Bowling’s dogged empathy is a model, not only for how to write, but for how to live in the ever giving elastic of community, of your own identity – how to let yourself track your own progress, in order to see.
“Paris, Springtime, Youth” can be read at the Free Library. It was originally published in the Queen’s Quarterly (March 22, 2004)
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