How Did I Get From There to Here? A Gathering of Literary Activities, in Progress
Schooling and Early Career
Marilyn Bowering was born in Winnipeg and attended elementary, junior and senior high schools in Victoria, B.C. Her principal interest outside of school was in music. She studied piano through the Toronto Conservatory of Music and played in a church brass band and taught music throughout her high school years. Her other interests were in drawing and painting and drama.Marilyn Bowering was awarded a University of Victoria alumni Scholarship and undertook studies as an undergraduate first at UVic and later at U.B.C. She continued to win a number of scholarships and bursaries and obtained a BA in 1971 in the Dept of English, with distinction. As well as Eng lit she studied Political Science and Psychology. At the conclusion of these studies, because of her developing work as a poet (and although she had been headed to law school) she enrolled in Graduate Studies in English Literature and Creative writing under Robin Skelton at the University of Victoria.
Marilyn held a number of jobs during this period, including for Information Services at UVic, for the Creative Writing Office, and as a marker for undergraduate English courses. She also lived for a period in Washington D.C. where she worked for a newspaper, The Jewish Week. In addition, she spent a summer as a script assistant on a film crew and worked for a local Victoria radio station (CKDA). While engaged in Graduate Studies, Bowering was awarded both the University of Victoria Graduate Scholarship and the University of Victoria Graduate Fellowship.
During this period Bowering began to publish poems, stories, translations and reviews in a number of journals and magazines including The Malahat Review, The Victoria Times Newspaper, Island, Northern Light, 52 Pickup, Tuatara, Contemporary Literature in Translation, View from the Silver Bridge, Karaki, Introductions from an Island, D.N.A. Tape Magazine, Canadian Fiction Magazine and others.
It was also during the early 1970s that Bowering began to compile an anthology of contemporary Canadian Indian Poetry (Many Voices), published 1977, and edited with D. Day. This project, took two years of initial research and a further two years of compilation and editing. Bowering travelled throughout BC and other provinces making contact with Native writers and organisations, including the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the National Indian Brotherhood. Many Voices was considered to be a pioneering work—the first of its kind in Canada—and continues to be used as a reference work in First Nations Studies in Canada and elsewhere.
Marilyn Bowering was a participant in the regular Haunted Book Shop talks and readings in Victoria. Through her contact there with the poet, Charles Lillard, she began a period of research on early BC women poets, meeting and interviewing poets such as Hermia Harris Fraser, Doris Ferne and Dorothy Livesay. Some of this work was broadcast, with Charles Lillard, on CBC Radio and for Co-Op Radio in Vancouver.
In 1973 Marilyn’s first book, The Liberation of Newfoundland, was published by Fiddlehead Press in Fredericton.After obtaining her M.A. degree, Bowering travelled to Europe and settled on the island of Paros, Greece, where she continued writing and began an association with the Aegean School of Fine Arts. Her involvement with the school (affiliated with Antioch, Ohio and the Tyler School of Art) led to a number of readings in the area and an exhibition in Greece (Photographs and Poetry) with the American photographer, Gail Lineback. While she was in Greece, Bowering continued reviewing contemporary Canadian poetry and Canadian Native studies materials, and to this repertoire she added contemporary Greek Poetry. Her reviews on these subjects appeared during this time, and after her return to BC, in The Malahat Review, Quill and Quire, Books in Canada, Canadian Literature, Monday Magazine, and The Victoria Times Newspaper.
In the Fall of 1974 Bowering moved to the Queen Charlotte Islands where she taught both elementary and high school English. In 1975, she enrolled at the University of New Brunswick in the Doctoral Program in Canadian Literature, but was obliged to withdraw because of injuries suffered in a car accident. While still at the University she gave a talk and reading at the famed UNB Observatory and began work on an anthology of Canadian poetry for children (unpublished.) After her recovery, she began to work, in Victoria, as a freelance writer, continuing to review and publish in magazines such as The Malahat Review, Branching Out, Contemporary Verse II, A Room of One’s Own, All Alone Stone, The Fiddlehead, and Q.C. Eye , the Canadian Forum and Prism International. Her second book, One Who Became Lost, was published in 1976. As well, she worked for the Correspondence Division for the Dept. of Education (Creative Writing and Guidance) and taught a poetry workshop, Voice and Vision, for Continuing Education at the University of British Columbia. Bowering also gave readings at the University of Victoria, UBC, the Kootenay Festival of the Arts, and at Notre Dame University.
While working out of a studio at Signal Hill in Victoria, Bowering established the Signal Hill readings and broadside publication series which ran for two years. Among the other poet participants were PK Page, Susan Musgrave and Charles Lillard. She also ran the Open Space reading series first with Susan Musgrave and later on with PK Page. In addition she was a participant and reader at the regular ‘Friday Night’ literary gatherings at Morriss Printing in Victoria and was an active member of the League of Canadian Poets.
In 1977 Bowering moved to Scotland and her third book of poetry, The Killing Room (Sono Nis) was published. She received a National Magazine Award for Poetry. In Scotland she gave readings and talks at the Centre of Canadian Studies at the University of Edinburgh, published in a variety of UK Magazines including Prospice, The Moorlands Review, Trends, New Poetry London, Akros, Lines Review, Stand and Cencrastus. Martin Booth’s Sceptre Press published pamphlet editions of several of her poems. During this period she returned to Canada for a reading tour which included readings at, amongst others, York University, Concordia University, University of P.E.I., Acadia University, and the University of New Brunswick.When Bowering returned to live in Canada, she began to instruct in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of Victoria, teaching poetry, fiction and drama. In addition, she worked for the ‘poet’s company’ gregson/graham marketing and communications, and published a first book of fiction (accompanied by photographs), The Visitors Have all Returned.
By this time, Bowering’s work had begun to be anthologised in collections such as Alchemists in Winter (Barry Callaghan), New poets of Canada (Dennis Lee), New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse (ed Margaret Atwood), Canadian Poetry Now (ed Ken Norris) Anything is Possible (ed Mary di Michele), Un Dozen (ed J. Fitzgerald), Anthology of North American Women (Berkeley), D’Sonogua (ed Ingrid Klassesn), Whalesound(ed Greg Gatneby), The Poets of Canada (ed John Robert Colombo), NewWest Anthology I(Intermedia)and the Anthology of Vancouver Island Poets.
Some of the readings/presentations she gave during this period took place at the Literary Storefront, the College of New Caledonia, the Carnegie Centre, Octopus Books, and the William Head Correctional Centre. For a special edition of The Malahat Review, Bowering wrote on the poetry of Patrick Lane (Pine Boughs and Apples) an overview article and consideration of Lane’s work that remains in print in a variety of reference works.
In 1980, just after the publication of Sleeping With Lambs, Bowering returned to live in Scotland. While there she resumed publishing in such magazines as “Cencrastus” , “Lines”, “Akros” and “Landfall” and also worked as a freelance editor for Blackwells and for Noel Collins Publishing. Her principal writing during this time was on the poems that became, in 1982, Giving Back Diamonds, and on the long narrative poem (published 1987), Grandfather Was A Soldier. Once again interested in what had not yet been articulated by her generation, she obtained a copy of her grandfather’s war service record, undertook considerable research, and visited the World War I battlefields of France and Belgium. This work was subsequently produced for BBC Radio, with a commissioned score by David Dorwood which was performed by the Edinburgh symphony, and with actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company. The production received a nomination for the Prix Italia.
Bowering also conducted workshops and gave readings for the Tattenhall Centre in England, and at the Chester College Poetry Festival. She gave the inaugural poetry reading, with Elizabeth Smart, at Canada House in London, and also read at the Third Eye Centre in Glasgow.In 1982 Marilyn Bowering returned to Canada where she once again took up teaching in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of Victoria, work she continued (with the exception of the years 1987 and part of 1988) through 1989. During much of this time she was on the editorial board of “The Malahat Review”.
She also published articles for Western Living Magazine, The Scotsmen Newspaper, Gangway (London), Waves, Exile, Poetry Canada Review, Radio 3 Magazine, Northern Light, Aura, Jewish Dialogue, The Commonwealth Magazine, Toronto Life, Poetry Canada, and The Canadian Forum. A number of Marilyn Bowering’s poems were translated into French by the Quebecois writer, Michael Beaulieu. Readings were given at, amongst others, Duthie Books, for Amnesty International, Seneca College, the University of Toronto, Carleton University, Red River College (Winnipeg), the University of Victoria, and F.H. Collins High School (Whitehorse).
In 1984 Bowering’s book, The Sunday before Winter: New and Selected Poetry was published and later short-listed for the Governor General’s Award. In this same year she wrote scripts for and produced, with Elizabeth Gorrie of Kaleidoscope Theatre, several performance works for poetry, including a performance/reading of PK Page’s in-progress “Brazillian Journals” and Robert Bringhurst’s “Jacob Singing.” Literary Jury duties included the Canada Council Short Term grant award. Bowering also performed a choreographed evening of Poetry and Jazz with the musician, Larry Cohen.
In 1985 Bowering was invited to the Canberra Poetry Festival in Australia. She also toured and read and gave talks on Canadian writing in Sidney and Melbourne, and in New Zealand in Auckland and Christchurch. In the summer of 1985 Bowering was invited to Edinburgh to work with Marilyn Imrie of BBC Scotland on a commissioned radio play about Marilyn Monroe, “Anyone Can See I Love You”. The play was broadcast (with a jazz score) in 1986 and received a nomination for the Sony Award.
In 1986 Bowering wrote poems, narrative and lyrics for the play, “Hajimari-No-Hajimari” four myths of the Pacific Rim. The play was directed by the Japanese master director, Yukio Sekyia and was toured by the Kaleidoscope Theatre Company in North America and Japan in 1986/87.
In the mid 1980’s Marilyn Bowering was asked to adjudicate the first of the Commonwealth Literature Prizes, serving first on the poetry jury and later on the jury for the photography prize. Other prize juries during this period included the CBC Literary Prize, the BC Federation of Writers Prize, the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild prize jury, a number of juries for the Government of BC Arts Scholarships and a number of juries for the Canada Council, including for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry.
1987 saw the publication of two of Bowering’s books, Anyone Can See I Love You and Grandfather Was A Soldier. Also in 1987, Bowering wrote the script of Laika and Folchakov, a Journey in Time and Space for CBC Radio (Directed by Don Mowat). It received the regional nomination for Best Script (Actra Awards) and was also broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
In 1988, Marilyn Bowering wrote a stage version of Anyone Can See I Love You. The play was produced by Bastion Theatre Company, and directed by John Cooper. During much of the 1980’s, Bowering was also researching for and writing, To All Appearances A Lady, a novel set in 19th century Hong Kong, Vancouver Island, and the leper colony on D’Arcy Island. The novel, published in 1989, was a pioneering work of BC history and culture. As such, it was mentioned in Hansard in the BC Legislature. It was short-listed for the W.H. Smith First Books Award and for the Ethel Wilson prize and was named a Notable Book of 1990 by the New York Times after its publication in the U.S. To All Appearances a Lady was also published in the UK. It remains a popular selection with BC book clubs, is on the BC secondary reading list.
In this same year (1989) Bowering was awarded a National Magazine Award for poetry. She also published, Calling All the World, Laika and Folchakov 1957. Her play for radio, “A Cold Departure, the Liaison of George Sand and Frederic Chopin” directed by Don Mowat, was broadcast for CBC Radio. Bowering continued to sit on Canada Council (Arts A & Governor General’s), BC Federation of Writers, and BC Arts Council juries, to do reader’s reports for the Canada Council, and to give presentations on creativity to students and teachers at local schools; she also appeared on a poetry program for the Knowledge Network. She continued to give readings, including at the Vancouver International Festival, Malaspina College, North Park Gallery, Harbourfront, Tanner’s Books, and the Sidney Library etc.At the end of 1989, Marilyn Bowering moved to Seville, Spain.
While living in Seville, Bowering read, and gave presentations on Canadian literature at the Facultad de Filologia (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) and at the III Conferencia de las Asociacion de Estudios Canadienses in Madrid. In England she read at Canada House; she was invited to the International Conference on the Novel at the Edinburgh Book Festival and to read at Clare Hall, Cambridge. During this time she reviewed (at a distance!) for the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, worked on poetry and began research towards her next novel.
In 1992 Bowering returned to Canada. She was on the faculty of the Banff Centre Writing Programme, where she also gave readings. She presented a lecture on Poetry and Memory to the Dept. of Creative Writing at the University of Victoria; she began teaching at UVic in the fall of 1992 and continued in various positions within the Dept. of Creative Writing until the spring of 1998 (with the exception of spring term 1995.) Bowering gave readings and talks, at amongst, others, Everywoman’s Books, and the Sechelt Festival. In 1993 Bowering began working with the Writers-in-Electronic Residence programme which linked writers across the country with high school students throughout Canada. She worked in this programme until 1997.
In the spring of 1993 Bowering presented a paper to the League of Canadian Poets titled, “Syllable From Sound” later published in book form. Still in 1993, Bowering’s book of poetry, Love As It is was published. Also in 1993 Marilyn wrote the film script for “Divine Fate” an animated film by Ishu Patel, for the National Film Board. (This film won the Earth Peace International Film Festival , Heart of the Festival Award in 1994, and the Unicef Animation Award at the International Animation Festival.)
Bowering read at the Vancouver International Writers’ Festival (with a score by Sal Ferreras), for the Victoria Read Society, The Rites of Spring (Vancouver), the Victoria Library, the Galiano Poetry Festival (reading and workshop), Malaspina College, and in a benefit reading for Clayoquot Sound. Anthology publications included the Dominion of Love (ed Tom Wayman), The Bedford Introduction to Literature; Inside the Poem (ed Bill New), Skelton at 60, and 50 poems for Pat Lane.
In 1994 Hawthorne Books published Bowering’s “Interior Castle”. Bowering also won the Malahat Review Long Poem prize.Jury duties during this period included the City of Regina Literary Award, the Bronwen Wallace award, the MotherTongue Press Award, the Pat Lowther Poetry Award and the Power Poetry award, and for BC Cultural Services. In this same period Bowering was a Writers’ Union of Canada Rep liaising with the BC Dept. of Education on curriculum issues. She was instrumental in the “Swiftsure Internet” project, the first attempt to put large numbers of Canadian writers and other artists on the Internet. TWUC members were trained in internet use and in the construction of web pages; Bowering also gave the May Workshop on Creativity in Victoria. Readings included for the Rites of Spring, an Amnesty International Benefit , for Hawthorne Books, and for the Mayne Island Festival.
In January 1995 MB took up the position of writer in residence at Memorial University, Newfoundland. Here she was writer-liaison with the community, writers groups and the university. As well as conducting a writing workshop and visiting classes, she gave two University readings (with the musician and folklorist Peter Narvaez), read at “The Grad House”, and for the Erotic Poetry event, produced an anthology of her students’ work, read at and talked with many writers’ groups, gave radio talks, judged a local CBC literary contest, and ‘mentored’ (reading manuscripts, editing etc.) a number of writers who have gone on to publish nationally. She continued to work for WIER during this period, as well as to write a draft of her next novel, Visible Worlds, and to undertake research for a future novel.
Back in BC, Bowering continued with The Swiftsure project, read at the Victoria International Literary Festival and at a benefit for Kaleidoscope Theatre, and was on the Board of Press Porcepic. In September she returned to teaching at the University of Victoria and continued teaching for WIER. She also sat on the Canada Council Governor General’s awards jury, gave benefit readings for the Cancer Society and the Read society, and read at GlenLyon Norfok school, and at Pelican’s in Sidney.
In 1996 a new book of poems, Autobiography was published. This book received the Pat Lowther Award and was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for poetry and for the Dorothy Livesay prize. In this year, Bowering’s play, “Temple of the Stars”, directed by Elizabeth Gorrie, was produced by Kaleidoscope Theatre. In addition MB participated in a fund-raising event for the Writers’ Development Trust, gave readings for the League of Canadian Poets Benefit, for the Hornby Island Festival, the Belfrey Theatre (UVic anniversary), Visions and Visionaries (Kikomora Ventures),the Shawnigan Lake Festival (reading and talk), the Saltwater Festival, at the Royal City Poetry Centre, Word on the Street, Victoria High School (talk and reading), at the 25th anniversary Press Porcepic reading, at Chez Piggy (Kingston), Gallery 101 (Ottawa), the U of T Bookstore Readings, and contributed to the Malahat Review Special Edition on PK Page (written piece and reading).
This year saw the publication of Bowering’s novel, Visible Worlds. It won the Ethel Wilson Prize, was nominated for the Dublin IMPAC award and was short-listed for the Orange Prize. (And later published in the UK, USA, Greece, Finland and Germany). Some readings that year included the Dorothy Livesay Memorial, the Royal City Poetry Centre, for the BC Book Prizes, the Saltwater Festival (II), and at Duthies, Steamworks, U. of Toronto, Western U., Waterloo, and Open Space.
In 1998 Marilyn was Writer in Residence at St. Mary’s University, Halifax; in addition to readings and class visits at the University she gave a workshop for the Nova Scotia Writers’ Federation and also read at Acadia U. and the U. of P.E.I. She gave a speech to the Vancouver Island Teachers Association on literacy and read in the Mocambo Poetry Series, for the Rites of Spring (literacy reading), at Edward Milne Secondary School (talk and reading) and for the League of Canadian Poets as a Pat Lowther Award winner. She gave a talk to Sooke Rotary about the writing life and also a Women and Fiction talk and reading for Co-Op radio New Zealand.
Bowering conducted week long writing workshops for the Victoria School of Writing and for the B.C. Festival of the Arts (Prince George). She gave readings at the Shawnigan Lake Writers’ Festival (II), and in San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. In the UK she read in Waterstones (London), in Canada House (London) and Manchester. Back in BC she gave a Vancouver reading for the Literary Press Group, Word on the Street, at Bolen Books, for Victoria High School (presentation and reading to class), at Malaspina University College, for Night of the Novelists (Salt Spring Island), the Vancouver Public Library, the Richmond Public Library and at Isadoras, Granville Island. Returning to the USA she read at Clackamus College, Oregon City.
This year saw the publication of Human Bodies: New and Collected Poems 1987-1999, a gathering of Marilyn Bowering’s major poetry. She also finished teaching at UVic in the spring and took up a new position in the Dept. of Creative Writing at Malaspina University College (now Vancouver Island University). She gave readings for the Burnaby Public Library, Duthies, Milestones in North Vancouver; also for the Esquimalt Library, the Nellie McLung Library, at the U. of Toronto, Artbar (Toronto), Harbourfront (Toronto), Cafe Chez Piggy (Kingston) and various venues in Ottawa and Montreal.
Marilyn was short-listed for the World-Wide Orange Prize (for Visible Worlds) and gave readings and talks at the Haye-on-Wye Literary Festival, (reading and panel); the New British Library (reading and panel, chaired by Andrew Motion); and appeared at an event at the Royal Festival Hall. In the summer she gave a two week workshop, that also encompassed talks and readings for “Fishtrap” in Wallowa Oregon. In the early Fall she travelled to New Zealand for the International Women’s Book Festival and gave readings and spoke on panels in five cities: Christchurch, Dunedin, Mosgiel, Wellington, Gisborne and Auckland.
Anthology publications this year included work in Westcoast Stories (ed. Keith Harrison); Line by Line (ed. Heather Spears); A Long Life of Making (ed. Rhea Tregebov); and Poets Present Poets (ed. Evan Jones.) A selection of MB’s poetry was translated into Spanish in the periodical Movobil….; other periodical publications were in The Canadian Forum, Exile Magazine and in the Times Colonist Newspaper to which MB contributed a column on Project Literacy. Also in aid of Literacy Marilyn gave a benefit reading for the Read Society. Other readings took place at the Sidney Library, the Oak Bay library, the Emily Carr Library, St. Michael’s University School, Victoria High School and at the Global Connections Café. She was a presenter at the tribute to PK Page at the Vancouver International Festival and a guest lecturer in History at Malaspina University College and in International Studies at UNBC. At Douglas College Marilyn engaged in readings, class visits and talks over the period of a week; and also was a presenter at The Poet as Fiction Writer. Marilyn also presented three new poets (introductions, biographies, editing) in the anthology, Breaking the Surface: Fifteen New Poets (Sono Nis Press). The work of one of these poets, Danielle Lagah, was introduced by Marilyn on the CBC programme, Out Front. Other CBC work included presentations on New Poetry (Moure, Thiesen, Mooto, Redhill, Baron, Elliot Clarke (Eleanor Wachtel)) books and Art and Ideology (Ian Browne). Her paper, Syllable from Sound’ was published in Poets on Women and Language, Reinventing Memory (Broken Jaw Press.) As always, she undertook other community work that involved the mentoring of young poets.
By this time, MB was at work on her novel, Cat’s Pilgrimage. Nevertheless she was able to once again participate in a CBC panel on poetry , to give a presentation at the British Columbia Librarians Association Conference, to write a story for the CBC’s Festival of Fiction, to read at Mocambo and the James Bay Inn, to participate in the Sechelt Literary Festival, and to give a benefit reading, Words for Afghanistan, broadcast by the CBC, from the Belfry Theatre. She also made a presentation to the Joint Senior English Project for BC High Schools ‘The writer as link to literature and society in the classroom” (with Brian Toohig: a report on a three year project involving the use of MB’s novel To All Appearances A Lady.
In 2002 Marilyn participated in a number of literary memorial and celebratory events. She read work written for, and discussed, the poet, Charles Lillard in Vancouver, read work by, and discussed, the poet Robin Skelton at a posthumous launch of his collection formal verse collection, The Shapes of Our Singing, and read work written for, and discussed, the poet PK Page at Extraordinary Presence, a conference on PK Page at Trent University (Peterborough). Festival readings included the Women and Words ‘Poetry Matters’ Festival at Simon Fraser University, and several readings and presentations for Word on the Street (Vancouver) and for the Sidney Christmas writers’ Festival (which also included a talk on Robin Skelton) In addition she gave a reading and talk to St. Michael’s University School (Greg Marchand) and undertook a week long reading tour for the Saskatchewan Writers Guild (in Regina, Saskatoon and Estevan). MB’s novel, Visible Worlds, was optioned for film by Rhombas Media; and Gavin Bryars set prose from Bowering’s novel, To All Appearances a Lady, as a song, “I have heard it said a spirit enters”, sung by Holly Cole, performed in concert and recorded by CBC recordings.This year, too, with a small group of others, Marilyn was an inaugural member of the Victoria Book Award Development Committee (which became the Butler Prize).
In the spring of this year, Marilyn published a new book of poems, The Alchemy of Happiness (Press Porcepic). At the Manulife Literary Festival, MB interviewed the Australian poet, Judith Rodriguez and also took part in a panel on writing historical fiction. She lectured to the Long Form writing class at the University of Victoria, to a history class studying one of her novels at Malaspina University-College and to another university class studying her story, “North America, South America”. As part of an ongoing relationship with the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, Bowering participated in a telephone lecture class with students from across the Middle East who were studying her work (Prof. Larry Wood). She also presented a talk, ‘Creativity in a Time of Chaos’ for the Victoria School of Writing. Some of her readings took place at Vancouver City College, the Vancouver Public Library, the North Vancouver Library, for the North Shore Writers’ Festival, at Word on the Street (Vancouver)and at the James Bay Inn (Victoria). Other readings were for the Victoria Public Library and Bolen Books, at the Art Gallery in Vernon, and in Ontario at the Toronto Art Bar, the College of the Redeemer in Ancaster and for the Hamilton Poetry Centre. Bowering also adjudicated City of Regina Literary Award.
Near the beginning of 2004, Marilyn Bowering’s third novel, Cat’s Pilgrimage was published, as was Debjuos et Poemas (poems translated into Spanish) in conjunction with an exhibition of the work of Mercedes Carbonell in Seville. Later in the year, Cat’s Pilgrimage was translated and published in German, and Marilyn’s book of poems, The Alchemy of Happiness, was short-listed for the Dorothy Livesay Prize. New work and/or commentary appeared in Focus on Women, Blancomovil #91, Exile Magazine, Quills Poetry magazine, the Malahat Review and in the Pooka Press Poetry Postcards series. Bowering read and was a panelist for the Victoria Literary Festival, The Vancouver Poetry Festival, The Sidney Christmas Festival and the West Coast Poetry Festival.She gave talks/lectures for the Canadian Library Association, to various book clubs, and once more to students at the University of Sharja (UAE). Public readings, this year, included events for Bolen’s Books, The Victoria Public Library, the Reading for Peace Festival, the Love and Loss Raw Exchange Panel, Women in Print, Harbourfront (Toronto)and at the Victoria Art Gallery. Bowering also read at other venues in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Sechelt, Vernon, Kamloops, Toronto (Art Bar), and Edmonton. Her community work included judging the Rona Murray Award. Research work took her to Yuquot (Nootka) and San Blas.
During the spring of 2005, after Marilyn’s research trip to Winnipeg, Marilyn and novelist Kathy Page undertook a series of bookstore and other venue fiction readings and presentations under the topic of ‘Crime, Identity and Transformation’. Their appearances included events in Chemainus, Courtenay, at the Vancouver Public Library, on Galiano Island, in Duncan and on Salt Spring Island. The Sooke Harbour House hosted Marilyn as their reader for a Sensual Experience event, at which, after hearing her read, guests discussed the experience and ate with their hands…. Other readings were held on Salt Spring Island and for ‘Bolts of Fiction’ in Vancouver. Marilyn also read and taught poetry at the Banff Studios, and fiction for Lewis and Clark University’s Writing Summer Culture and for Sage Hill’s Novel Colloquium. Some of her publications this year included three poems in the formal verse anthology, In Fine Form (for which there were several additional readings) and a number of poems in the bilingual anthology Las Sagradas Superficies-Poesia Canadiense Actual de lengua inglesa. A suite of Marilyn’s Calendar Poems was translated into Punjabi by Ajmer Rode and published by Third Eye. In November Marilyn and PK Page recorded, for the CBC, a round table, Falling in Love with Poetry—which, sadly, was lost. The year ended with a reading and presentation for the Christmas Writer’s Festival, “Perception and Insight”.
In 2006, Marilyn’s third novel, Cat’s Pilgrimage, was published in Germany as Das Grune Glastein. Her fourth novel, What It Takes to be Human, was published by Penguin Books in Canada. In this connection MB gave a variety of readings and presentations including at the BC Book Fair (Kelowna), for Bolen Books, at the Denman Island Festival, Juan de Fuca Library, at Salon des Lives and the McGill Book Store, at the Vancouver International Literary Festival “The Dark Side” with Eden Robinson, Damun Galgut, Patrick McCabe, Gatun Soucey; “Outloud at Night” with Timothy Taylor, Nell Freudenberg, Caroline Adderson, and Linda Holeman; she also had a joint ‘launch’ with ME at the Cricket Pavilion in Beacon Hill Park. Other readings involved poetry and/or benefits: for Portal Magazine, for a CBC broadcast and performance of works for music by PK Page (on her 90th birthday), for In Fine Form and Poetry in Transit and for the launch of a posthumous book by Robin Skelton. Marilyn’s essay, “Famous Writers” was published in Writing Life (ed. Constance Rooke) and she was a judge for the BC Book Prizes and the Saskatchewan Book Prizes. Her community work included a number of book clubs and establishing (with Ev Nittel) a reading series at VIU (then Malaspina). Preliminary work also began on a chamber opera with Gavin Bryars.
Major books this year included a new edition of To All Appearances A Lady (Penguin), the UK edition (Maia Books) of What it Takes to be Human, and Exile Edition’s publication of MB’s new book of poetry, Green (with a cover by PK Page). As well, Marilyn gave talks, lectures and readings at a number of Festivals and Writers’ Conferences. At the University of Phoenix’s “Desert Stars” she gave the opening reading and for the first time presented her workshop, “Double Meaning: Using the Techniques of Poetry in Writing Fiction. She was also part of a panel that looked at ‘Writing the Border’ and another which discussed ‘Writing Drama.’ Marilyn also read at the Vancouver International Literary Festival and the Ottawa International Literary Festival and was part of Suddenly Dance’s improvisational response to literature (benefit.) In the spring she spent a month at the Fundacion Valparaiso and was also able to conduct research for a forthcoming memoir in Turkey and in Greece where she read at the Aegean School of Fine Arts on the island of Paros. In the Fall she read at the Malahat Review’s 40th anniversary (in honour of Robin Skelton) and was a poetry judge for the Sooke Fall Fair.
At the beginning of this year, Marilyn was awarded a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Creative writing at New York University. While in NYC she taught the Advanced Fiction class at NYU, conducted research and gave several readings—including at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writing House. She also wrote the introductory essay to Penguin Books’ new edition of Timothy Findley’s “Last of the Crazy People”. Other literary activities this year were playwriting mentoring for the University of Guelph’s MFA programme, readings for Suddenly Dance and for the anthology, Rocksalt, at Bolen Books, plus a series of workshops and readings in the Kootenays (Rossland, Selkirk College and Nelson).
In 2009 Marilyn was commissioned to write and deliver the annual Ann Szumagulski Lecture to the League of Canadian Poets (since published by Prairie Fire.) Other commissioned work included a poem for the Cultural Olympics project, Canada CODE, and a poem for the Words On Water Festival (Campbell River) where she read, gave talks and participated in panel discussions on the topic, “Where’s the Book?” Other readings during this period were given at the University College of the Fraser Valley and at Kwantlen College and for Poetry Gabriola. MB also wrote the Foreword to Dog Days (Mathews and Potvin); and she was the Fiction Mentor for the Banff Centre Writing Studios. Part of her Community work was to be a judge for the Sooke Scribblers Community Writing Contest for amateur writers. In the Fall MB undertook further research towards a novel-in-progress in France.
In honour of the late PK Page, Marilyn gave a performance reading from Brazilian Journals at Merlin’s Sun Theatre and also wrote a brief memoir of Page (for the League of Canadian Poets.) In the Spring she read in Winnipeg at the University of Manitoba and McNally Robinson books; and she delivered a paper, “Re-Discovering Ancient Springs: a consideration of metaphorical space” at the University of Winnipeg. The essay was also published in Prairie Fire (Vol 3. No.4). Another essay, “Everyone Has a Place Where Their Mind Comes into Being” was commissioned by and published in Luminus. Some of MB’s poetry publications were in CVII and the Words on the Water Anthology. Community work included a benefit reading for the Romp Dance Festival and a Fall-Fair Community writing contest. During this period MB continued on a libretto for a chamber opera (composer Gavin Bryars). A week long workshop in which several of the opera’s scenes received public performance was held at Banff through the Banff Opera program. Towards the end of this year, MB began her ongoing poetry exploration in the Hebrides.
While she was working towards a new manuscript of poetry, MB began publishing poems in periodicals. These included 7 poems in Grain Magazine, 2 poems in The Malahat Review, 3 poems for The Warwick Review, and a publication and presentation as part of the PK Page Trust reading at Open Space. One of Marilyn’s poems was published in the international “Pass on a Poem” format. Anthology contributions included work in The White Collar Book (Black Moss Press) and Framing the Garden (Ekstasis Editions). Bowering gave several readings in Haida Gwai and also at Moniack Mhor (Scotland) where she was fiction tutor for the Arvon Foundation. For the New Canadian Library, Marilyn wrote the Afterword essay for Brian Moore’s, Black Robe (McClelland & Stewart). Community work included giving a seminar for the Clemente program and co-developing the online community poetry site, Poetree. In addition, MB gave readings and presentations to several Book Clubs.
Readings—and book launches—this year (including with Kate Braid and Rachel Wyatt) centred around the publication of Marilyn’s new book of poetry, Soul Mouth (Exile Editions), but also included readings in the Ottawa (Tree Series) and in Montreal (Atwater Library series) where MB gave a workshop for the Quebec Writers’ Association. Poetry periodical publications included ‘The God Poems’ with Leon Rooke (with accompanying commentary) in The Exile Quarterly; five poems in the New Quarterly (including an interview by John Varden); and three poems in The Antigonish Review. Marilyn also undertook Jury work for Access Copyright, the Archibald Lampman Award (Arc Magazine) and for Prairie Fire’s fiction contest (with accompanying notes.)
Two of Marilyn’s songs were recorded on the Faroese Island singer Eivor’s new album, Room.
One of several firsts, this year, Marilyn’s song, with Eivor– True Love from Room—was made into a film by Heiðrik á Heygum. Eivor also performed in the September premiere of Marilyn Forever, Marilyn Bowering’s opera with composer Gavin Bryars, at the MacPherson Playhouse in Victoria, B.C. This year, too, marked the first time Marilyn’s poetry was translated into Romanian (by Chris Tanasecu). The poem, Cow, found here, is included in the poetry suite, Threshold, for which Marilyn was co-winner of the Gwendolyn MacEwen Poetry Prize. Other poems in Romanian form part of ‘margento’s ‘graph poem’ and have appeared in print, online and onstage. During the year, Marilyn’s poetry was published in Geist Magazine, and three poems were included in the anthology Force Field (edited by Susan Musgrave). Readings included Inhabiting Women’s Spaces at the Vancouver Public Library; the Terrace Public Library; at Planet Earth and for the Malahat Review series; and for the VIU Faculty series in Duncan. Further afield, was Marilyn’s work as a judge for the Saskatchewan Book Awards, and as residential fiction tutor (Arvon) at Moniack Mhor in Scotland. Marilyn’s recent poetry book, Soul Mouth, was short-listed for the Pat Lowther award.
On the Writer’s Blog Tour, Marilyn was in good company with Kathy Page, Eve Joseph, and others. Good company was also to be found, along with Marilyn’s work, in the anthologies KWE: Standing With Our Sisters (ed. Joseph Boyden); I Found It at the Movies (ed. Ruth Roach Pierson); and in Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2014 (ed. Sonnet L’Abbe). Marilyn read at The Galliano Literary Festival in a rare joint appearance with an older poet who happens to share her name.
In February, Marilyn Forever, the opera (Gavin Bryars, composer; Marilyn Bowering, librettist), was given its Australian premiere at the Adelaide Festival. In March, the opera was performed for the first time in the United States (Long Beach Opera) with both Marilyn and Gavin in attendance for the opera’s return to its Los Angeles‘ roots’. Another major event this year was the publication (Leaf Press) of Threshold: an encounter with the seventeenth-century bard Mary MacLeod, with photographs by Xan Shian. Three of Marilyn’s poems were published by Cascadia Review; and she gave readings at Talisman Books (Pender Island), twice for Planet Earth, and for the Cottage Bistro series (Pandora’s Collective, Vancouver).In the summer, Marilyn returned to Moniack Mhor as residential fiction tutor under the centre’s new designation as Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre.
Work on a novel took up most of Marilyn’s time this year, but she read at the In Fine Form (Braid & Shreve) launch at Planet Earth, for the Poet’s on Campus series in Duncan, and at Russell Books on behalf of The Literary Storefront, the Glory Years (Mothertongue). The North Nanaimo Library hosted a launch for Threshold, which included the bag piping of Gordon Webb. Alex Dougal piped the Lament for Mary MacLeod at the end of his joint address, with Marilyn, to the Saltire Society on the subject of the 17C Hebridean bard. Five of Marilyn’s poems (illustrations by Ken Laidlaw), and a brief essay, excerpted from “Woof at the Door, Woof” were published in The New Quarterly. As well, one of Marilyn’s essays appeared in Measures of Astonishment Poets on Poetry (U of Regina Press).
Of importance to her this year, was Marilyn’s keynote address to the conference on Literature and the Environment at the University of Graz, Austria. Her essay, “When We Walked on the Backs of Fish” (forthcoming in the anthology, Green Matters) was an opportunity to explore a perspective on ecology from within the concerns of a long writing career. She also gave a reading through the Graz Centre for Canadian Studies. These reflections led to the development of a workshop, Beyond Helpless: Writing and the Natural World, which she presented through GOOD, in October. She also gave a reading for the Malahat Review’s 50th anniversary event. Marilyn was judge for the Quebec Writer’s Federation Concordia University First Book Prize. She published work in the Malahat Review, and in the anthologies, The Heart is Improvisational (An Anthology in Poetic Form), and The Hippocrates Book of the Heart. As well as continuing work on a non-fiction project in the Scottish Hebrides, she conducted research in the Orkney Islands and on the Island of Malta.
Over the year, Marilyn finished writing What Is Long Past Occurs in Full Light, a new book of poetry to be published by MotherTongue. Its cover and illustrations are by the Scottish artist, Ken Laidlaw. A selection of ten poems from The Sunday Before Winter, New and Selected Poetry (1984), was translated into Russian by Anna Bochkova. These appeared in Zarubezhnye zapiski’ magazine #38-2018 http://z-zapiski.ru/publication.php?id=21347
Marilyn was a panelist At the WordThaw Festival; she also read from recent work, under the auspices of the Galiano Literary Festival, on Galiano Island. A poem, “The Biscuit Factory” appeared in The Puritan. Back in Scotland, Marilyn completed non-fiction research on the islands of Jura and Islay.
This year brought together a variety of Marilyn’s literary interests and work. Continuing her writing and explorations in the Hebrides, she spent two months in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. While there she finished the final edits on What Is Long Past Occurs in Full Light, which was published in September. While in the UK, Marilyn attended and gave a talk with composer Gavin Bryars at the UK premiere of Marilyn Forever at Oxford University about their work together. Literary journal publications included poetry in The Dalhousie Review, Event, The Exile Quarterly (under the title “Odyssey”), Prairie Fire, Grain, and The New Quarterly. Also for TNQ was a piece, “Continuity” describing her writing space. https://tnq.ca/marilyn-bowerings-writing-space/ Other poetry publications were in Best Canadian Poetry (2019), and for the Poem in Your Pocket project conducted through the League of Canadian Poets.
In July Marilyn was writer-in-residence for the Elf Mountain Literary Festival where she mentored, read (for one segment accompanied by musician Stephen Fearing) and gave a public lecture, “Out of the Shadows” on the creative process.
Marilyn’s essay When We Walked on the Backs of Fish, first presented at a conference in Graz, was published in Green Matters (Brill Rodopi :Leiden, Boston ). Early reviews of What Is Long Past came from Mary Ann Moore http://www.maryannmoore.ca/what-is-long-past-occurs-in-full-light/ and in the British Columbia Review #688 How must it feel to write this way? | The British Columbia Review (thebcreview.ca)
In the otherwise silence of the pandemic, Marilyn wrote poetry and revised works in progress.
In accordance with pandemic restrictions in Germany, Marilyn and Gavin Bryars were commissioned to write a shortened version of Marilyn Forever. It was performed in September in Hagen. » HAGEN/ Theater: L’ISOLA DISABITATA von Joseph Haydn – MARILYN FOREVER von Gavin BryarsOnline Merker Just before the closing of most theatres in the early spring, the full-length opera was performed in Saarbrücken (Germany) conducted by Stefan Neubert.
Marilyn’s long essay, “Out of the Shadows” was published in Prairie Fire Vol. 41, No. 4.
She also wrote an introductory essay, “Skin to Skin”, to the work of the visual artist, Xan Shian, for the UBC Master of Fine Arts Graduate Exhibition at the Belkin Art Gallery (UBC). In the Spring, Marilyn was part of the Poet’s Caravan https://tinyurl.com/yx6whce3
where she read a selection of published and unpublished work. A review essay of the work of two poets, Marlene Cookshaw and Derk Wynand, appeared in The Malahat Review #215. To close the year was publication in “Storm Brain: The Hippocrates Book Of The Brain edited by Wendy French, Michael Hulse and Donald Singer for The Hippocrates Press.
Marilyn’s poem, “Amnesia in Ten Fragments”, was based on a 24-hour experience of memory loss. The role of memory in creative work has been one of Marilyn’s long-term interests. She continues to write about this in forthcoming work.
(To be continued….)
Marilyn Bowering’s literary papers are in the National Library of Canada and also in Special Collections, the University of Victoria.