The Alchemy of Happiness


125 pages
ISBN 0-88878-435-0
DDC C811'.54




Reviewed by Chris Knight

Chris Knight is the senior movie reviewer at the National Post.


Marilyn Bowering has stumbled with her latest collection of poems, a
selection of unfocused, murky works. Although many are arranged in diary
or calendar form, they nevertheless fail to present a coherent setting
or tone. While “The Pink City” section is obviously located in a
home for the mentally ill, and “Glen Lochay Diary” is
self-explanatory in its Scottish locale, the 28 poems in this book
provide neither the detail nor the emotional heft to fully transport the
reader. There are arresting images (“To stand outside the tangle / of
thought and rest in surety a moment,” from “The Stars,” gives
voice to a theme that resurfaces often among the poems), but more often
the spare descriptions (“Our room is there, a brass bedstead, / apples
in the cellar, / our children, a grandmother”) aren’t grounded
enough to anchor the feelings they are meant to evoke. Bowering is a
two-time Governor-General’s Award nominee and author of the sublime
novel Visible Worlds, so no doubt this less-than-stellar book is a mere


Bowering, Marilyn., “The Alchemy of Happiness,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 20, 2024,