By Krista Nelson
We have all been living in ambiguous times.
In his new collection, “Ambiguous Parables: Poems and Prose of Loss and Renewal,” St. Anthony Park educator and poet Ted Bowman, offers us the voice of a man seeking greater comfort with ambiguity in living and moving through grief and loss.
“What seems to be is not always what is.”
Bowman’s subject is deeply personal: sitting with his mother with dementia, the tragic death of a grandson, his awakening of internalized racism, images of places loved now altered by change.
Yet Ted offers the words of American writer Frederick Buechner as we enter into Ted’s own poetry: “My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours.”
As I read this volume, I find Ted’s observation to be quite true. I turn to a good poem when I seek to imagine a complex chuck of human experience skillfully summarized as image or metaphor that rings true down to the bone.
The dreams, / Planted as perennials, / Turned out to be annuals instead.
Other poems follow, some with whimsy, some to shake us as with his reflections on 9/11’s toll. Even Prince has a nod. (Dearly Beloved We are gathered here today together to get through the thing called life.)
Bowman writes not to resolve or instruct but keeps true to his commitment to explore what is ambiguous in life’s turns of course. He leaves this reader as having felt privy to an open heart that is usually guarded.
Ted’s tales are not ones of woe but of life laid bare in all its complexity, with a call to keep living in it as fully as we can.
Krista Nelson, who lives in St. Anthony Park, is a psychotherapist who enjoys gathering with neighbors on the weekends to share poetry.