A few years ago, while sorting through a box of family mementos, Tim Bowling discovered a slim volume which his Great Aunt Gladys Muttart had privately printed in 1961a memoir of her family's beekeeping adventures in Edmonton between 1906 and 1929. As he read and re-read the text of this little book, Bowling felt that "two very different ways of life, the early years of two very different centuries, began to merge, as if the past was something the present gathers from the fields on a summer day." Bowling's discovery of The Bee and Me also got him thinking about the way we record and annotate the past, and about "those fat Norton anthologies of Modern Literature where now even a reference to yesterday is footnoted as 'a twenty-four hour period preceding the present twenty-four hour period,' which made me chuckle at the whole notion of literary success (which too many writers define as having their work appear in such university textbooks). And it occurred to me, what if somebody annotated a text that was not only NOT famous but which also existed in only a few private copies kept in the bottom drawers of my elderly relatives' bedroom dressers? And what if the annotations were not clever forays of career-making criticism but simply poems, and poems that set out to respond to the large themes of Birth and Death and Time and Memory, keeping in mind that there is always room for humour and irony too in those grand old ballrooms of the human condition?" The collection is divided into two sections. In the first, Bowling weaves his own verse and excerpts from The Bee and Me into a long poem which is part tribute to kin and part lament for modern life, an exercise which delivers him to "a day when you're neither alive nor dead / but so conscious of both conditions that you've entered the hive." In the second section, titled "Out of the Hive, Into the World" Bowling wrestling with the "confusion of loving too much the world." Its poems touch on family, literature, salmon fishing and beekeeping lore, hinting at how in facing the unvarnished facts of one's brief life one might honestly annotate their experience: "You build an immunity over time to Time / or you fall among the dried husks of the bees / on the grass"
Used availability for Tim Bowling's The Annotated Bee and Me
March 2010 : Canada Paperback