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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.
Let's start this review with this answer from Mr. Bowering's latest interview via The Globe and Mail.
What makes a poet a poet?
How should I know? I mean, that's for me to know and you to find out. I mean, if I told you, we'd both know. I mean, do I look like the Answer Man? I mean, you tell me, and we'll both know. I mean, it depends on a lot of variables. I mean, we're working on it . . . Okay, it's time for me to quit futzing about, if that is what I have been doing. What makes a poet a poet?
1. Insatiable curiosity about the facts. 2. An ear that likes what words do other than designate. 3. A desire to continue the work. 4. A lot of skepticism. 5. A love for oneself as a stranger to oneself. 6. A highly competitive ego-loss. 7. Compassion on the part of one of the nine muses. 8. The inability to leave the house without a book in hand. 9. A record of failing one class in high school
Good stuff. Now that we have those criteria set up for us, what about the anti-poet? Bowering's latest chapter delves into anti-poetry to get at the historical events of USAmerica and Cuba during 1941-present. It might be because of my appreciation of radical, angry, political anti-poetry, that I loved this chapter.
I can try to say what made me love this chapter, but it is easier to start with the words of Bowering,
This is called the Manroe Doctrine. This is something called Manifest Destiny. Other times it is called the Good Neighbour Policy.
We know it as Coca-Cola.
Bowering intricately describes the events of Batista (then Cuban president) signing several agreements with the U.S. from 1941-1944 that lead to a corporate USAmerican exploitation of Cuba. Bowering outlines the corruption of the entire scandal and what was really at the base of the policies: money. Thus he writes (my favourite!) "Every time you peeled a Chiquita banana/you voted for the CIA." Which is still a good point in today's economy. I'm not saying don't buy Chiquita bananas, but the statement is still true that you vote with your dollar, so be wary of what you buy.
The clincher at the end of the chapter leaves the reader with one final impression as Bowering lists the results of USAmerica leaving Cuba. "Free health care,/free medicine,/free hospital" among other things is the current state of Cuban health care policy (Sicko by MIchael Moore had the same ending). A dramatic change from when America had a strong investment in Cuba. This chapter may be anti-poetic, but I enjoyed the history and politics lesson from George Bowering.
In an unrelated matter, since I love Bowering's sassy nature, I have responded to his requirements of being a poet. My answers are in brackets.
1. Insatiable curiosity about the facts. [Yes ... maybe]
2. An ear that likes what words do other than designate. [I have very small ears]
3. A desire to continue the work. [Yes]
4. A lot of skepticism. [I am skeptical about this one]
5. A love for oneself as a stranger to oneself. [I think college guys try this when they don't have a girlfriend]
6. A highly competitive ego-loss. [I barely like myself]
7. Compassion on the part of one of the nine muses. [IPA is a muse right? I know lager is, but I think IPA is too]
8. The inability to leave the house without a book in hand. [I have a general inability to leave the house]
9. A record of failing one class in high school. [Yup, chemistry 12 in which I told the teacher he could "precipitate my acid."]