In the Summer of Bowering, Geist blogger and Poetry Is Dead magazine Editor-in-Chief Daniel Zomparelli will be reviewing George Bowering's latest poetry collection, My Darling Nellie Grey. The collection is divided into twelve chapters, named for each month of the year, and Zomparelli will review one chapter a week all summer long.
In Bowering’s third chapter, “Eggs in There,” he plays around with memory and what could be memory. Nostalgia reins supreme in the chapter as he details events of his childhood. I have to say that, in regards to poetry, this chapter didn’t work for me, probably because I don’t deal well with lyric prose. That’s not to say there wasn’t many likable qualities about this chapter.
Bowering starts each poem with “I REMEMBER” and delves into his past. The smoking 1940’s or 1950’s (I have to guess since Bowering is seventy-five and his age range in the section is 5-20) is the backdrop, and it recalls a time when smoking and drinking coffee was a general pastime. Which I definitely miss; something about drinking a coffee and then not smoking makes it feel like it’s only half of the process (says the ex-smoker). I digress. The thing I like about this chapter is its simplicity and how it begs the question of memory. What do we remember, what do we think we remember, what do we not remember. All of these memories and/or non-memories all come together to create the past we build within our minds.
Since the chapter was slightly less than interesting to me, my review needed a little umph, so I took My Darling Nellie Grey to the class I teach at an addiction detox centre as part of the Megaphone Magazine Creative Writing Program. I read them a couple pieces from Bowering’s book, asked them to start their pieces with I REMEMBER, and here are our results (posted with their permission, of course). I suggest you try it too.
I REMEMBER how I looked forward to Labour Day, when our family went down to Portland to help our friends down there celebrate the US holiday. What I enjoyed about it were the fireworks and the aura of happiness, and how friendly everybody was. It was always sad on the Sunday when we would return, but always gave me something to look forward to in July.
by Godfrey Marten Hill
I REMEMBER when it was May 10, ’78, overtime, too many men. I can’t believe it. Why did the ref call it? As a young kid I didn’t understand it. It was overtime, just let them play. Short story, we lost the cup again. Then Mom asks me to go to the store for smokes and bacon. As I walk my dog Sparky, tears run down my face because we could and would have beaten the Rangers for the Cup. Sparky was used to running with me to the store, however, not today. He reached up and took my hand in his mouth and tried to run with me. Sorry dog, not today.
by Daniel Zomparelli
I REMEMBER the hole in the house where the bees used to live. The hole was too high up for us to plug it, so we just waited for winter. I remember the buzz that came from the attic. I remember opening the attic door, the echo the wind made passing through, thinking this is where we put her after she left—like the Christmas decorations. I thought she was hiding at the edge, where the floors fell through. Or maybe she was the bees or the sticky honey, or maybe she was sleeping and I was the one haunting her dreams.