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Edmonton Journal Review

Memories that are created every day: Enviable sense of artistic, emotional balance: Poetry August 12, 2001

In his fourth collection of poetry, Darkness and Silence, Edmonton-based Tim Bowling makes the all-too-thorny craft of poetry look ever so easy.

A writer with an endlessly deft hand, Bowling has produced a collection that exhibits an enviable sense of artistic and emotional balance.

This is a poet who knows how to walk the line (as warbled in the seminal Johnny Cash song) and produce a body of work that is deeply poignant, deeply lyric without ever veering into the saccharin or succumbing to the temptations of easy sentiment.

While exhibiting a formality in the text, this work remains highly accessible because of the subject matter: the familiar territory of the memory poem and things domestic.

Pithy observations of Bowling's childhood are juxtaposed with thoughts on his new fatherhood, which in turn contrast with memories of his own father (coloured by his father's seemingly fatal illness). These are presented in a visceral, spare style that moves with breathtaking narrative speed without sacrificing clarity or eloquence.

Bowling can make even the most mundane event — the prosaic action of cleaning out a mousetrap, for example — into a poetic opportunity.

In part, he does this by wondrous use of language and evocative description ("I lift / the killing bar, and the body / drops lightly as ash off the end / of a cigarette to lie in the dusting / of snow over the weeds"), but also via a Zen-like focus and desire to occupy that particular moment in its totality.

You also have to envy Bowling's ability to write such brilliant homages to Western Canadian landscapes — the lush riverscapes of B.C.'s southern coast or Alberta's far harsher, far more brittle badlands — in a way that avoids the simplistic postcard pastiche or the distancing effects of metaphoric hidden agendas. Bowling makes you think deeply about the scene he's creating, and calls you to revisit your own ideas of place and your standing in the Canadian landscape …

—Gilbert A. Bouchard is a freelance reviewer