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Tim Bowling. The Annotated Bee & Me.

Tim Bowling. The Annotated Bee & Me. Kentville, NS: Gaspereau Press, 2010

You want The Annotated Bee & Me as soon as you see it; Gaspereau Press is known for its beautiful books, and, after all, this is Tim Bowling. Seduced by the cover with its enlarged reproduction of a woodcut of a beehive, you note that these poems are based on a memoir, by Bowling's great-aunt Gladys Mullart, of the family's beekeeping adventures in Edmonton between 1906 and 1929. You perhaps wonder whether Bowling has been able to turn this charming piece of family history into the solid poetry for which he has become known. Be pleased, for this is a collection of excerpts from the memoir and Bowling's relatively spare poems that convey complex emotions, history, family, intimacy and story, pieces that shine with rhythm and specific language, and which for the most part contain the same strengths as his earlier works. The first poem, an untitled explanation of how the poet leads from memoir to poetry, suggests that "The provenance is intimate, contained within a family. / The annotation is intimate, contained within a language." In several series of untitled poems, he works those statements to take us back in time, using vernacular--"Face it. The old girl / was a right hag, hard as nickel, awful / to nearly everyone"; matter-of-fact acceptance--"There was a war. Three brothers went" ("King and Country"); and lovely sinuous lines--"We / labour, sullen and joyous, for the Queen, Time, / and kill her, and choose her, and kill her again" ("Reading, Equinox"). This collection reveals a lot about the business of bees and, while bees have flitted in and out of Bowling's poems in previous volumes-a line here, a metaphor there--The Annotated Bee & Me is about real people and the interrelationship of all living things, in the hands of a poet who knows how to make a good poem. Some poems could have been left out, such as "The Worry Poem" listing things that are stressful to humans in general, hut Bowling more than delivers with a fascinating series of paratactic poems that tie all his themes, time periods, characters, and memories together. In "Wintering," the speaker finds himself at the mall, which has been built over old family graves, and where a newspaper in a metal box is "the trapped wing of dailiness caked with spit." A few lines further in this dreamlike sequence, the reader is washed up on the steps of an old railway hotel, with a "granite chunk of the chinaman's broken back and the doorman asks for the bridle to your horse, and the desk clerk, staring at his computer screen." The poem slides into spring with "the ceaseless hum of the world, honey dripping off the walls," and ends up among the dead, witnessing rows of children who "look up at the hands / whose violence goes unpunished and / unreported." A review in the Winnipeg Free Press wrote of Bowling that he brings new life to everything he touches. Here he has created a time bridge, but not to a static past; Bowling's past is alive, made of the life of bees and his family's connections to them.

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Author:Radmore, Claudia Coutu
Publication:ARC Poetry Magazine
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 22, 2012
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