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Poetry Canadian

Darkness and Silence

by (author) Tim Bowling

Nightwood Editions
Initial publish date
Jan 2001
Canadian, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2001
    List Price

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In his fourth collection of poetry, Tim Bowling continues his exploration of loss, heartache, joy and wonder. Employing a supple lyricism that is at turns tender and fierce, he draws on his experiences as a father and son, on his memories of childhood, and on his journeys into landscape as ways to explore the deep mysteries at the heart of consciousness.

Darkness and Silence moves from the lush riverscape of BC's south coast to the eerie moonscape of the Alberta badlands, from elegiac considerations of the lives of other writers (such as Al Purdy in "Elegy for an Elegist" and Willa Cather in "I Went into the Gardens of the Empress Hotel"), to the imagistic meditations on the simple acts of washing dishes, going for a walk, or returning home after a day's work.

These highly crafted poems, rich with startling metaphors and vivid images, underline Robert Frost's idea that poetry is, above all else, a performance. Bowling believes wholeheartedly in emotion and drama, and he puts his deep love and respect for the sounds and rhythms of English into every line he writes.

Intellectual without being academic, and philosophical without being abstract, he is a poet fully engaged with the challenges, beauties and hard truths of day-to-day living.

About the author

Tim Bowling has published numerous poetry collections, including Low Water Slack; Dying Scarlet (winner of the 1998 Stephan G. Stephansson Award for poetry); Darkness and Silence (winner of the Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry); The Witness Ghost; and The Memory Orchard (both nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award). He is also the author of three novels, Downriver Drift (Harbour), The Paperboy's Winter (Penguin) and The Bone Sharps (Gaspereau Press). His first book of non-fiction, The Lost Coast: Salmon, Memory and the Death of Wild Culture (Nightwood Editions), was shortlisted for three literary awards: The Writers' Trust Nereus Non-Fiction Award, the BC Book Prizes' Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize and the Alberta Literary Awards' Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction. The Lost Coast was also chosen as a 2008 Kiriyama Prize "Notable Book." Bowling is the recipient of the Petra Kenney International Poetry Prize, the National Poetry Award and the Orillia International Poetry Prize. Bowling was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008. A native of the West Coast, he now lives in Edmonton Alberta. His latest collection of poetry is Tenderman (Nightwood), due out in fall 2011.

Tim Bowling's profile page

Excerpt: Darkness and Silence (by (author) Tim Bowling)

Three Jack Spring

Three jack spring
briefly laid
on the wet grass
and forming
a loose silver triangle

And wasps
slow circling
as the careful dialling
of a rotary phone
their buzz the sound
of the numbers passing

And apple blossoms
from an overhanging bough
a few settling on the scales
as if to ice the fish
the others settling
on the cool patch of grass

Unseen is the heap
of the fisherman's son
all the fingers slick
with blood and slime
and curled into themselves
to make a tiny moon

Unseen is the heap
of cedar sawdust
red as the salmon flesh
rich too with the musk
of the life that's seeping
into the ground

Gone now are the fish
the patch of grass, the dust,
the blossoms and wasps.

But that hand is this hand
poised to pick up
on the first ring
of that call
which never comes
except as the wind
in the silver triangle
then static, than darkness,
then nothing at all.

Reading My Son to Sleep

Last night, for the first time, I went down the well
my father went with me.
It plunged deeper than the back of the little skull
whose edge lay page-thin on the white pillow
and darker than the earth's dusk seeping in
to blot the secret passwords that I spoke.

"Hello," I tested with each downladdering breath,
the letters pattering like rain in the murk
and echoing off the cavernous stone. A blink,
a butterfly's tentative settle, and the slight
way back had briefly closed.

Another blink, and I was left
with the aftersound of uttered entrance,
my eyes guttering, arms loose as rope.

With an inward cry I could not help
I watched darkness flood the praying-book.


A house under stars, still yet poised
as the white-tailed doe who stands,
head lifted, sniffing, a foot beyond
the supple chamois stretch of light
extending from a reading lamp.

Many-windowed, a house on a slope
through which the eyes of the wild peer
at a height equal to the stars, through
which the measured breath of being
pins the pages on a desk.

Earth-bound, a house of old wood
against which the hides of passing herds
still brush, and for which
the paper of an open, unread book
still longs.

A man under stars, hunched,
earth-bound, opaque of spirit,
what else shall he long for
to merit the doe's tentative address
and the stars' constancy
than the flesh that shelters him
and a small gap in the absence
of his wilderness?

Other titles by Tim Bowling