Poet in Residence Judith Bowles

Photo by Judith Beermann
Judith Bowles
Judith Bowles

We share a first name diminutized willy-nilly, and a backyard in the woods. Before I learned she is a poet with a brand new book, I knew her as the lovely master gardener who gifts my windows with their lush view. 

(Photo by: )

 

Published in August, Unlocatable Source is Judith Bowles’ second volume. As she did with The Gatherer, Bowles selected an Edward Hopper painting to illustrate her work. Friend and teacher David Keplinger explains, "I have long felt the poetry of Judith Bowles was the counterpoint to Hopper. In her new collection, we find the same lone figures staring out of windows and gazing from front porches, narrated by a poet whose influences could be traced in a lineage from Merwin and Strand, to Stevens and the Symbolists of the 19th century."

 

Following a recent reading, I had a chance to sit down with the poet, to learn more about how she leads us with grace and clarity through those seminal moments of her life, turning the isolation she felt as a child outward. To friendships, acting, the theater, family, a career teaching English. Then, armed with an MFA in short fiction, to poetry, a medium she says, “makes me feel witnessed.” And, “it’s also taught me how hard it is to learn about what matters to me.”

Judith Bowles reads from (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Judith Bowles reads from "Unlocatable Source"

About her parents, from: 

The Neurosurgeon Teaches

My father taught like someone who remembered

not knowing. This had its comforts.

His efforts to be with us in the dark.

He handled brains in his hands.

Mother held babies like that.

 

About the loss of hearing, from:

White Morning Light

Are there still people 

who knew us as as we once were? Even at night

my good ear hears light. My deaf ear still waits

for the window to open.

 

About empathy:

My Father Explains

A blind man came for dinner

in our house. My father described

the plate that sat before him

as if it were a clock.

 

Chicken would be at 3, potatoes

at 6, peas at 9. The man shut his eyes

and smiled at a lesson so clearly stated

that you would almost have to

 

be blind to imagine.

I wondered when the man shut his eyes was he picturing

my father blind

 

to give himself company

in the world where he lived.

I shut my eyes and so did my brother

and we tried to eat without seeing.

Judith Bowles (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Judith Bowles

For her daughters:

Santa Barbara Morning

All crowded today

like an overgrown meadow

alive with color, 

with swaying, with sand.

It makes a case for the heart

to open its fist and receive

 

like they do, the dolphins,

now lifting, wheels turning

their rhythm of breath.

 

The send and receive

in equal measure.

Sound is their light

 

that beams through the water, 

meets matter that’s dense,

copies it home to the brain —

 

revising, moment

to moment, their place

to soft constellation.

 

And this, to be published soon, so sadly right for these times:

All In

In the 70’s things were so good

we could laugh at bigotry 

as if it were just an act

it was Archie Bunker representing

an endless joke which everyone got

but him and this made the gag richer

and deeper  he smoked a cigar

when he was sure the cliché 

he believed was true  puffed it past

all possibility and wailed up his eyes

at the ignorance of Edith of Gloria of Meathead

and you may remember how we laughed

we were all in on the joke and it was a good one

 

that could never come true