George Bowering has always maintained many of his poems are germinated in secret ways—secrets he has, until now, assiduously kept to himself. In suddenly giving most of those secrets away, Vermeer’s Light, much of it written while Bowering was “in office” as Canada’s first Poet Laureate, constitutes an extraordinary gesture of generosity from a poet to his readership who has so honoured him. Its alphabet series A, You’re Adorable, by “Ellen Field,” a pseudonym Bowering often used in the 1990s; Imaginary Poems for AMB, addressed to his late wife Angela; He Is Not, a micro-translation of Shelley’s Adonais; Q&A, which dares to take on the most fundamental questions of the human condition with level-headed honesty and wit—the list of revelations and the pyrotechnics of Bowering’s craft presented here are spellbinding.
But the greatest astonishment about this celebratory collection from a poet at the height of his powers is that it contains all eight variations of “Grandfather,” Bowering’s most anthologized poem to date, set into an essay, Rewriting My Grandfather, like eight jewels in a crown at the end of the book. It is here that the poet presents his readers with a voyage of discovery; that the buried treasure of his invisible but adamantine craft is to be found; and the gift of entrance into how George Bowering creates his work is revealed.