Horizontal Surfaces

Horizontal Surfaces, the latest from the wildly prolific Canadian poet George Bowering (look him up – you’ll stay off Facebook for a week) offers 48 prose pieces that defy easy classification. Strung together in alphabetical order, the poems shift from musing memoir-style reflections to mini-essays. Topics range from witnessing the passage of time through photographs to exploring being high (both chemically and spiritually) while writing poetry. Baseball, evidently a great love of Bowering’s, recurs often, depicted in a golden retrospective haze. His favourite poets and authors get a similar treatment. Though several poems feel slapdash or incomplete, each resonates with a winking kind of wisdom and accomplishes much with only several hundred words.  In “Cascadia,” Bowering reflects on West Coast cliches, describing granola-crunching, plaid-clad, lumberjack-aping West Coasters in a manner that evokes chuckles and uncomfortable squirms in equal parts. And yet Bowering ends the piece in favour of the West Coasters. While the city-philic Toronto mentality might urge you to leave behind the woods, “there’s something here that you need all the time.”
Horizontal Surfaces could be dismissed as George Bowering lite, but that misses the point. This is not intended to be a serious or cohesive work. Just under a hundred pages, the collection makes for insightful subway or waiting room reading, perfectly suited for that span of time one pauses over a bowl of cereal, restless for intellectual craving but finding nothing at hand, before resorting to reading the back of the cereal box. (Victoria Hetherington)

George Bowering, 93 pgs, BookThug, bookthug.ca, $18