Excerpt


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Full review in Vue Weekly

The opening lines of Tim Bowling's The Book Collector tell us, "It's a new world" but, as the businessman sips his "green tea to display his globalism," we know where we're going—back to the familiar waters of Bowling's beloved Fraser River: "it begins, / another salmon run … / Several million sockeye hang at the mouth, / a swarm at the entrance of the hive, / turning their hunger inland, all feeding done."

And the question becomes: is the salmon a metaphor for Bowling himself? Is his feeding done, his feeding off his past as a fisherman in the wilds of BC? Bowling, who recently won the prestigious Guggenheim, became Canada's bard only after years of writing poetry collections—and a work of non-fiction, The Lost Coast: Salmon, Memory and the Death of Wild Culture—about his longing for this fading world. But you get the sense from this collection that the old salmon runs of his youth have spawned imagery Bowling cannot easily or willingly escape—he's trapped in a knitted loop that keeps hooking him back to the coast even as he lives the urbanite's life in land-locked Edmonton. His speaker's a husband and father who hangs out at rep cinemas which show The Seven Samurai and yet, in "Cineaste," the scene always cuts to the "Sound of salmon striking a net."

In "The Return," the salmon overtakes the speaker, torturing him as his wife and children look on: "I can't get out of bed this morning. / It isn't what you think … / Simply, I'd become a tributary of the Fraser River / and the last wild salmon / had chosen my body in which to dig her redd." He seems on the verge of release or new maturity like the salmon of his seas.

—Robin Durnford, Vue Weekly, Week of July 16, 2009, Issue #717