Tim Bowling’s latest collection of poetry takes stock of memories, ancestors and friends, years spent and fish caught. Amidst the pong of the salmon fishery that is his heritage and was once his occupation, Bowling navigates the culverts, rivers and harbours that lend a fluid tumble to his verse. Acting as poetic tenderman, Bowling writes of the foggy pulse and spill of British Columbia’s Fraser River delta, and the similar pulse and spill of memory itself.
Bowling’s poetry progresses in the rhythms of his subjects, pulled by the coursing of generations through the decades and of a river along its banks. Offering fresh variations on subjects that have spurred his poetry from his very first collection, Fathom is characterized by strong narratives and a potent lyric energy. These poems share a personable tone and nimble focus on the dense terrain of memory and occupation, and the overlaps that occur between. They also reveal a new level of trust in images and their inherent connections to one another. Bowling’s natural poetics reflect the ease and occasional mischievousness of a good host, introducing parallels and leaving them to chat amongst themselves.
“I grew up along the banks of the Fraser River in a salmon fishing family,” says Bowling. “That experience shaped me in ways I’m still trying to understand. Fathom is an attempt to convey some of the richness and intensity of that world. So the poems look back to an almost mythical childhood of mysterious creatures and distinctive human characters, but without any falsifying prettiness. The eye of the poems is not a child’s eye; it sees the sadness and pain of the Great War veterans living in small apartments and the homesickness of Greek immigrants and the racism of an earlier time when ‘we called a chinaman a chinaman’; it sees the native place as part of a much broader human story played out over generations. Yet there’s always gratitude and affirmation implicit in the poems. I’ve tried to pay the river and the marshes and the salmon and the people of my hometown back with metaphor, the one form of wildness we possess that’s worthy of the earth. Well, metaphor and love — because I loved my hometown, its oddball mix of fishermen and farmers, its eerie, trembling half-mile between the totem pole and cenotaph, its rain-swollen blackberries and orange-gold salmonberries, its particular flavour never to be tasted again, but just there, hovering, an inch from the lips. Even so, I wrote Fathom without any grand overarching design. I just wanted to be honest and as vivid as possible about the world that means more to me than any other.”close this panel
“an especially resonant work of long-line, prose-leaning verse that specifically and unapologetically plumbs evocative details of this unique personal history, starting with the book’s title.” Gilbert Bouchard, Edmonton Journalclose this panel