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)
To learn more about Tim Bowling, please visit the Harbour Publishing website.
Lara Bozabalian is the author of The Cartographer’s Skin, and the upcoming collection Tourist (Tightrope Books, Spring 2016). Her poems appeared in The New Quarterly, Prairie Fire, The Dalhousie Review, and were longlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize and Best Canadian Poetry. She is a founding member of Toronto Poetry Project, and the founder of Be Heard, one of Canada’s largest (and longest running) youth poetry festivals.