Tim Bowling doesn’t believe that “art” and “entertainment” are mutually exclusive terms.
Bowling is the city’s most decorated poet; he’s been twice nominated for the Governor General’s literary award, won the Edmonton Book Prize and won two Canadian Authors Association Awards for poetry. Bowling’s latest poetry collection, The Duende of Tetherball, was released in late autumn and what you’ll find are poems that are modern, engaging and entertaining. From observations on parenting to an epic piece on a buck’s head flying through a car windshield, Bowling’s work is well worth visiting and revisiting.
“I hope my poetry isn’t simple, but I certainly don’t want it to be inaccessible to anyone with a reasonable level of intelligence,” says Bowling. “I believe that it’s entertainment. I believe it can be an elevated art form, but it has to be enjoyable.”
Accessibility. Enjoyment. These are key words. Because, for many, as we age, we regard poetry as something of a literary challenge. We begin to think of poetry as an abstract form that’s difficult to grasp.
Think about it; for most of us, the first experiences we have with literature are through verse. Many early readers are written in rhyme. It’s natural for kids to play with rhyming patterns. We learn to read and write through verse, repetition and rhyme. “There is nothing more natural than using language,” Bowling says.
Of course, the verse takes on new life when it’s read out loud. When Bowling began publishing his poetry, he wasn’t comfortable reading them out loud to an audience. But, that’s changed over time. When he reads now, he likes to mix in work from other poets, as well.
“Poetry exists in a curious world,” he says. “It’s an aural art form, but it exists on the printed page.
“You learn a lot about them by reading them out loud. I was a lousy reader when I started. I was an awkward reader. But it’s like swimming, you get better by getting into the pool.”
Bowling is in the midst of a rather prolific period. This April, look for the launch of The Heavy Bear, his novel that’s set in Edmonton. And, at MacEwan University, you’ll find the poetry exhibit, I Don’t Want to Die in the Digital Age. A collaboration between Bowling and J. Mark Smith, it runs to Feb. 21. The title of the exhibition reflects Bowling’s skepticism of embracing technology. Bowling teaches English at MacEwan and the University of Alberta, and he’s seeing how devices are changing the way that he and his students live. And he’s becoming more forgiving of their need to be connected, even during a lecture. “It is almost like an addiction. It’s got to the point where it’s almost cruel to have to listen to someone talk for 50 minutes without being able to look at a screen.”
This article appears in the January 2017 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.