Tuesday, October 1, 2013

More thoughts on Bowering

I do sort of come at Bowering slant-wise.  Unlike a lot of B.C.-based writers, I don't feel particularly indebted to him.  I notice that both he and George Stanley seem pretty taken with the long poem (or long poems built from series of shorter poems).  I generally don't have the patience for long poems and prefer my series to wrap at about 10 or fewer poems.  Yet I think I should at least try to read through the bulk of his work (and Stanley too -- I admit I was pretty taken with Stanley's Vancouver: A Poem, which I ordered).  It is true that Bowering seems to play the crotchety poet card more and more in his recent work, but then he sort of winks at the reader, indicating that it is mostly just a pose (that he has earned).

What I will do for the moment is to lay out the best way (in my mind) to approach Bowering, though I have certainly violated the order already.

Selected Poems: 1961-92
   (This is actually quite a good collection, generally available used for very little cash, and most importantly it contains the entire sequences "At War With the U.S.", "Allophanes" and "Kerrisdale Elegies."  If Bowering hadn't written anything other than Kerrisdale Elegies, he probably would still have made a name for himself in poetry circles.  It is sort of a response to Rilke's Duino Elegies.  Kerrisdale Elegies was recently reprinted but with seemingly minor edits.  I think one can safely read the version in Selected Poems.  If one only reads a single book of poetry by Bowering, it ought to be this one.)

Urban Snow (1992)
   (A relatively small number of poems from this collection are in the Selected but most are omitted, so it is worth peeking through this.  A lot of poems about baseball fields are in the series "Yards," which might be of more interest to baseball fans who do try to travel to see games around the country.  They didn't do that much for me.)

Blonds on Bikes (1997)
    (I didn't enjoy the main sequence "Blonds on Bikes" as much as I thought I would, but I will read it again before returning it to the library.)

His Life: a Poem (2000)
    (A bit of an autobiography in poetry.  I haven't cracked this.)

Changing on the Fly (2004)
    (Another selected poems, but one that focuses on relatively shorter lyric poems across his entire career.  Possibly useful to catch early poems left out of the main Selected Poems and well as the "best" of His Life.)

Vermeer’s Light: Poems 1996-2006
    (This is sort of an anthology that takes up where the Selected leaves off, but as far as I can tell, it doesn't contain any of the Blonds on Bikes poems.  I could be wrong of course.  A lot of the titles grabbed me, and I've put this book on hold at the library so should be able go through it soon.)

My Darling Nellie Grey (2010)
    (A self-contained book of his daily poems written in 2010.  I already reviewed this here.)

Teeth: Poems 2006-2011
    (I presume this doesn't contain anything from MDNG, but I could be wrong.  I should be able to get this from the library in the next month or so.)

This is not an exhaustive list, though it is still a fairly long list of books.  (I have enough of a head start, that I should be able to get through them by the spring.)  If one adds in the fiction and the literary criticism that Bowering has written, it truly becomes overwhelming.

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