His Life: A Poem


121 pages
ISBN 1-55022-408-5
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Bert Almon

Bert Almon is a professor of English at the University of Alberta. He is
the author of Calling Texas, Earth Prime, and Mind the Gap.


This is one of the most interesting of George Bowering’s many poetry
collections. As a postmodern poet, he based his selections on an unusual
and apparently arbitrary procedure. He went to his journals and
considered what he had recorded on the equinoxes and solstices from 1958
to 1988. Each poem grows out of one such entry. (The arbitrary selection
calls to mind Lyn Heijinian’s My Life, which was written in her 37th
year, in 37 sections consisting of 37 sentences each.) Bowering provides
the year and season (fall or winter) for the entries.

We get a series of samples, period inspections, of moments in his life.
The mundane is dominant—food eaten, places seen—but he also deals
with relationships with family and friends. His friends include some
eminent writers, and we get glimpses of them in fatigues rather than
dress uniforms. The treatment of feelings and interrelationships tends
to be understated (he is limited to what happened on a particular day,
which may have been very little on the surface), but the treatment is
what counts—oblique, often quirky, with much implied. His style is
terse, with care for syntactic interplay with line breaks. A strong


Bowering, George., “His Life: A Poem,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 1, 2022, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/7452.