Giving Back Diamonds


95 pages
ISBN 0-88878-200-4





Reviewed by Sparling Mills

Sparling Mills was a freelance reviewer living in Herring Cove, N.S.


Marilyn Bowering’s title Giving Back Diamonds comes from a comment by Zsa Zsa Gabor: “I never hated a man enough to give diamonds back.” This phrase is also the title of the first of the book’s four sections. It is a bitter section, with lines such as “The sadness of centuries fills me,” and “I intend to be eternal /while age is tinting you / with ice.” The relationship is over; “Even the crying has stopped.”

The second section of the book is called “The Swan on the River of Death.” Most of the imagery is from Scotland: the swans that “flew from the loch by the crags”; and “the rowan berries” hanging “red as / thumbs on the pliant branches.” The place is a “fearful, perfect paradise.”

Bowering names her third section “The Wings of Strangers.” The poems are lively, irreverent, delightfully puzzling. “The Butcher’s Boy” is a good example: he has “a red sore on his cheek” as he watches “a dark-haired girl / cross against the lights, past the Butcher’s window / her legs scissored, and scissored again” — the lines have the horrifying reality of a nursery rhyme.

The last section, “Mythical Stories,” is difficult to assess. The most intriguing poem is the multiple “Mary Shelley.” Shelley is dead. “The curtains ripple like ancient glass.” Mary lies awake; she cries “I am damaged with moonlight, / the journey I began is broken.” The whole tone of the four-part poem is one of silver light and shadows.

Giving Back Diamonds is not for beginners. The images seem to float a little above the page in a magic world of their own. The book will be appreciated most by other poets, who will be encouraged to take risks in their own writing with the hope it will be as bewitching as Marilyn Bowering’s.


Bowering, Marilyn, “Giving Back Diamonds,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 10, 2023,