Marilyn R(uthe) Bowering Robert Billings - Essay

Robert Billings

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Susan] Musgrave and Plath seem to be the major influences on Marilyn Bowering. The Killing Room, Bowering's first full length collection, is filled with the same sharp edges of both diction and sentiment, and the same working and reworking of myth…. Bowering's world is a vicious place, a place where if gentleness exists at all, it is only one more element of the violence. Bowering's personae are caught in violence; they sometimes accept it, sometimes rage against it, and sometimes commit it themselves. This is a world of knives, of warmth cut from the body and held, jealously; of "defamation of the beautiful" and actually wanting "to be lost / in winter." The key to the book is, I think, "Winter Harbour", in which Bowering makes the harbour represent a number of contradictory human impulses: "no Spring to melt the ice floes", 'no unfulfilled desires", "no need." But the point is that such integration is only fantasy: "in some year / we may have enough prayers" ("Armistice"), but for now the search goes on, "sprouting or reaping" still "nourish us." There are times in the book when jarring rhymes undercut Bowering's sincerity and the intensity of her world; but for the most part the simple diction, and the combination of immediate presentation and abstraction ("Power is breadth / and being") effectively expose a world in which "'Morality' / means us lying dead." (pp. 101-02)

Robert Billings, in a review of "The Killing Room," in The University of Windsor Review, Vol. XIII, No. 2, Spring-Summer, 1978, pp. 101-02.