Ollie Bowen’s debut poetry collection, ON THE OCCASION OF A WEDDING, is a collection of love poems that draws on a passionate vision of love reminiscent of Pablo Neruda and Sappho. In the main, Bowen is not presenting the troubling ambivalent, or damaging love covered so well in poetry by Denise Levertov or Eavan Boland. Here, love is a vivifying, transcendent force so profound that at times it elicits spiritual submission.
In “Quando” Bowen writes, “I will wait as an empty house/until you come and dwell inside me.” Elsewhere, she writes “I am not my own—I am yours.” In “Love Letter From Sea Otter to Snowy Owl” Bowen writes: “Because your majestic shadow/soaring high above me/is all I need.” Love is powerful. On some level, it’s not entirely clear whether the “majestic shadow” here is cast by a partner or by love itself.
If Bowen’s thematic focus on transcendent love situates her beside Rumi, her buoyant exploratory spirit summons Frank O’Hara, as well as the children’s poet Shel Silverstein. With these two authors, she shares energy, enthusiasm and eclecticism. From the sensual to the romantic, from couplets to sonnets to near haiku, to free-form verse she pens ardent as well as disarmingly playful poems. In the fine, concise “Subject: Cake No. 50,” Bowen writes: “I want you to always look at me/Like it’s your birthday/and I am the cake.” On the whole, this breadth provides generous, varied expression to the nature of passionate love.
Bowen’s work is accessible; it is also erudite. She uses her knowledge of the natural world, and the classics to buttress her ideas. She overtly references a handful of classical composers and amplifies her language with a handful of images from the early 20th-century Viennese Secession. By conjuring cultural antecedents and scientific references and intermingling them lightly with her clear, fresh voice–she gives her ideas even more resonance and reverberation.
Bowen’s bright intensity is infectious and satisfying; no matter what form she traces or metaphor she uses, love in all its splendor persists. While she calls this out as a wedding gift in her dedication, these poems are well and happily designed for partners held firmly in any deep embrace of romance and passion.
Ollie Bowen’s debut poetry collection, ON THE OCCASION OF A WEDDING, is literate and lively. Bowen references natural motifs, Sufi mystical poets, Latin, Greek and ancient Chinese in this eclectic compilation. From free verse to sonnets, to couplets, to near haiku, Bowen assembles a vision of love that is sensual, playful and often deeply romantic.
~Ellen Graham for IndieReader