“Marilyn Bowering’s work has been important to me for years: its questing intelligence, its insistence on the truth of emotion. She is capable of the long look, which sees through time and artifice, to the bottom of the pool.”
—Jan Zwicky, author of Forge and Songs for Relinquishing the Earth
The Toronto Star
The most striking aspect of Soul Mouth is Bowering’s ability to shift seamlessly from a scene of the commonplace into a mystical realm. Thus, a poem depicting a family picnic features exact, homey details (“from the trunk of one of the Chevys, the cousins brought out/rope, and we ran to take sides”). But the tug-of-war takes a mythic turn: “the moon, the planets, the stars doubled in water/and pulled hard too,/through the uncoiling sea,/the dead along with us,/in their too tight good clothes.”
The continuity between the living and the dead comes up repeatedly, not only with respect to loved ones the poet has lost but also, in a collective sense, our connection to antiquity (elements of fairy tales, folklore and mythology echo throughout the collection). Doors are another recurring motif, perhaps as a symbolic reminder that the ordinary can serve as a threshold onto another reality.
There’s a crisp, luminous clarity to Bowering’s language, whether she’s describing birds “small as pull knobs” or a dreamlike vision in which desire takes the shape of a fish, “like a small cache of silver.” But there’s also depth to that beguiling simplicity. On one level, the following lines describe setting off on a journey. Read them as an allegory of life itself, however, and they are both powerful and poignant — and indicative of this collection’s reach:
I must put on my shoes,
pick up the bag by my side;
I must remember who I have to meet
and when; time is passing.