Tribute to Kent Bowker (1928-2017)

Peter Anastas

 

I grew up in San Francisco, knew the old California of cities with limits, bare brown hills dotted with live oaks, glorious orchards, and deep dark redwood forests.  San Francisco’s fog, shifting beauty filling voids, never either hot or cold, chilly often, no more. The smell of ocean sweeps through the gate, tumbles over the hills. North end bars filled, fifty years ago with poets, before money came.

My old California no longer, I depart, return
to my New England home, to the marshes,
granite ledges of the older sea.                     (Kent Bowker, “The Hand Off”)

 

John Donne wrote that every death diminishes us.  I thought of Donne’s words after a mutual friend emailed me on June 24 to report that Kent had died at 7 a.m. that morning at Kaplan House, following complications from a pacemaker procedure.

I had known Kent for nearly thirty years.  We’d sailed together, dined with our families, and worked together on the board of the Charles Olson Society.   In recent years we met regularly for lunch and conversations that ranged from the day’s pressing political issues to Kent’s years in Berkeley during the 1950s, where he studied physics and became friendly with some of the Bay Area’s finest writers, including poets Robert Duncan, Robin Blazer and Jack Spicer, during the era known as the San Francisco Renaissance.

Kent really was the “Renaissance Man” that his Gloucester Times obituary and the family’s Facebook tribute describe him as being.  He’d studied theoretical physics at the University of California in Berkeley and worked at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, where the Manhattan Project had originated.   Concurrently, he painted and wrote poetry at a time when writers like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Rexroth, John Wieners, and Charles Olson were either living in San Francisco or passing though.

After Kent moved to the Boston area to work at the Lincoln Laboratories and Itek, he continued to write, adding sailing to his repertoire.   He designed the house in Essex he and his art historian wife Joan lived in.  Filled with books and paintings and situated on a hill surrounded by fields, forests and wetlands, it was an ideal place for meditation and creativity.  After he retired he devoted his entire time to painting and writing—when he and Joan were not sailing or traveling.  Kent was also a superb cook.

When I first walked into Kent and Joan’s house for a Christmas party, I was attracted to Kent’s impressive library.  Personal libraries tell us much about the person who has created them.  As soon as I discovered the collected poems of Charles Olson on the bookshelves, along with those of the San Francisco poets Kent was close to, I knew that I had met someone I could talk with about the things that meant the most to both of us, not only poetry but the larger cultural and social issues the poets we both admired addressed.

Kent was always modest about his learning.  Berkley at the time Kent was a student there, along with Gloucester novelist and playwright Jonathan Bayliss, and woodworker/sculptor Jay McLauchlan, was arguably the most exciting place to be in America, especially if you were a writer.  New York, yes—and always.  But there was an atmosphere in San Francisco the likes of which we had never seen and, sadly, would never see again.  The Pacific light, the blue ocean itself, the astounding Bay and its iconic bridge were part of that atmosphere, along with North Beach bookstores like City Lights, cafes and housing that was affordable to writers and artists.

But Kent did not engage in nostalgia.  He did not romanticize Berkeley.  He lived in the present, depicting the marshes and woods around his house, the beaches of Ipswich and Plum Island he sailed past; himself and family members.

When we started Enduring Gloucester five years ago I asked Kent for a poem.  It would be the first of many he contributed—wryly humorous or passionate.  Poems about the passing of time, the changes in nature; about Gloucester lobstermen and the sea itself.

Kent was a Progressive long before those who use the term today.  A conversation with Kent was like his poetry—articulate, knowledgeable, and deeply humane.  We will miss Kent while cherishing the gift of his poetry.

 

Peter Anastas, editorial director of Enduring Gloucesteris a Gloucester native and writer. His most recent book, A Walker in the City: Elegy for Gloucester, is a selection from columns that were published in the Gloucester Daily Times.

Our Green Pride

It’s no great secret that I consider Ann Molloy a dear friend.  We met at one of many long series of City Council meetings here in Gloucester.  It wasn’t one of the most ideal scenarios to sow a friendship, but it worked and has grown into a rich friendship that I didn’t even know my life lacked.

Ann’s family, as many know, own and operate Ocean Crest Seafood and Neptune’s Harvest.  Back in the Winter of 2012 another friend of mine, Rona Tyndall, had a wonderful idea to start a Community Garden down the Fort.  Ocean Crest owns a piece of property across the street from their company, part gravel parking lot, the rest a small field with an apple tree on it.  1It was a no brainer to approach them in hopes that they would let us dig it up and turn it into not only a vegetable patch for the fort community to share in, but a place that drew folks together. Not only did Ocean Crest say yes to us using the land for the garden, but Neptune’s Harvest even donated the fertilizer, and has continues to do so each year. They overwhelmingly said yes, because that’s the kind of people they are – kind.

While Winter slowly turned to Spring, plans were made in rough drafts on pieces of paper, dreams of fresh vegetables feeding our imagination as to what it could be.  A lot of work, but fun work.  In comes another bonus, my cousin, Debbie Adkins, has this contact with some University of Maryland students who, rather than go off to some sunny resort or home for Spring Break, they have “Alternative Break,” where they seek a destination and help people.  Debbie asks, “How would you like them to come here and help start the garden?”  Another no brainer.  How lucky are we?  We get these young kids, eager to help and not afraid to get their hands dirty.  It’s been so much fun having them over the past three years.  They work like there’s no tomorrow, and then we have a lunch break.

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Somehow everything tastes more delicious after a morning together in the garden. With a well deserved lunch in our bellies, it’s not back to work for the students, but out on tour.  A little make shift Gloucester history tour, an educational walk through Ocean Crest and Neptune’s Harvest, perhaps a dory ride…  what ever it may be, the kids love coming here and reach out to us year after year to see if we have a need for them in the garden.

I’ve moved from the Fort and find spare time scarce for heading over to the garden to see how it’s going.  Funny how life can take us in so many different directions in so little time.  I hope the garden will continue to be a place for folks to gather together.  What has flourished, in addition to the garden, is my friendship with Ann.  It’s been extremely apparent to me, that when she became my friend, I got the entire family along with her and I’m not talking about just her siblings, but their kids, the kids of those kids, cousins, nieces, nephews, their kids, her mom, her son…  I feel like I’ve been adopted into an empire of love.

Now I’d like to give back, return some of that goodness that they’re always pouring out on me.   How the heck do I do that?  By asking you.  You see, Neptune’s Harvest is up for another great “Green” award.  I say another, as last year they received an award for “Outstanding Innovation & Leadership in Achieving Sustainable Practices in the Gulf of Maine,” by the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment.  Pretty cool if you ask me.  This time they are up for an award from “Green America.”  This award is for their commitment to advancing organic agriculture, but there’s a catch, there are ten finalists and they need your vote. All the finalists must excel in an overall commitment to both social and environmental responsibility.  I’d say they’ve nailed that.  So please, go to the link provided here and cast your vote for Neptune’s Harvest. If you’re a gardener and haven’t tried their products, please do, your garden will love you for it.

To vote for Neptune’s Harvest, click the following link:

http://www.greenamerica.org/green-business-people-and-planet-award/index.cfm

 

Pumpkin-Suchanek-1-(2)-(2)

 

 

Laurel - Headshot touch up vignetteLaurel Tarantino, is happy to live in her hometown, Gloucester, with her husband, James, “Jimmy T,” daughter Marina Bella, and the family dog, Sport. She is known for “stopping to smell the roses” and loves to photograph and write about her beloved waterfront community.

 

 

Giving Thanks

A wish to all of you from all of us at Enduring Gloucester…   may you have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving, filled with many blessings.

“For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, For love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Gloucester Landscape 1919 Stuart Davis (1892-19640

Gloucester Landscape 1919
Stuart Davis (1892-1964)

Artist: Tommy Heinsohn (!)

heinsohn

Pink House on Portuguese Hill. Tommy Heinsohn (b. 1934)

Folks who are my “friends” on Facebook know that every day I try to feature a work by a different artist, past or present, who has come to Cape Ann for inspiration. Some call it home, others are just passing through. There are so very many to choose from that rarely do I repeat a post. While searching this morning I came upon a lovely painting by an artist who really surprised me…and he probably will you too. ~ Bing

I have provided a link for more information on this unique talent.

Click here >> Tommy Heinsohn

Crossing the Bar by Kent Bowker

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Last Catch of the Day – 2012 by Ian Factor (b. 1969)

Crossing the Bar

Crossing the bar again
In the slosh and tumble of waves, around ledges,
at the favored lobster spots close to shore, the white working boat
maneuvers about rocks, gear shift growling,
runs down on pots, the men scooping them up,
hauling traps aboard, pulling the writhing bugs out, checking length
sometimes tossing most of them back in
thinking it's time to shift the pots further offshore.
It seems the hold is never quite full,
when they turn the helm to home.

It’s not all work, for there is a time
for awe and wonder in going
to and fro, in foggy uncertainty, or clear air
when the horizon is crisp and stark,
or when clouds boil, flowering in blue sky,
or when the black of a coming storm menaces,
or in the calm of sunrise, waters flat as can be,
never the same from day to day,

but same never-the-less.
You’re on your own out there.

They do not visit this place
as the yachtsmen do, to pleasure the day,
they live this world, all of it, its peace and hell alike.

Then back home again and out on the town
into dazzling lights, dark bars, a drink
having fun with women
punk rock songs and randy jokes.

Saint Joseph certainly must be there,
with faith’s wafer and wine certainty and protection
warding off threat of wave and rock
in the heave and thrust of swells
uneven footing, a dangerous winch cable
screaming on its spool.

There is a muscle taut energy
in this small 35 foot lobster boat

     heir to the fast Grand Bank fishing schooners, 
     proud large trawlers, the great hauls.

These rock crawling scavengers 
are all that’s left to harvest now,

     bend the muscles to.

It’s traps now, was nets then, always the haul, 
the heft of the prey on the deck 
in the heave and rolling wave of the sea 
The big thing to think about 
what many of us do not 
is who and where we are in this world. 
So few know, but those whose working rhythm 
is embedded in it, do. 

A Saint Joseph medallion dangles from the rear view mirror 
of their pickup loaded with traps and pots 
and its ‘screw you’ bumper stickers. But when some ignorant asshole on autopilot 
with cutters on his flashy yachts’ prop tears through a line of pots 
all the days moneys gone

     What’s Saint Joseph to do then 
     you have to keep asking.'

          Oh, they’re not paying what they used to, 3 buck a pound, 
          not worth it sometimes when they’re 10 bucks afterward.

Everyday, passing by the Dog Bar, offloading the stuff, 
tired, returning to the slip, tie up, disembark 
and, bone hope weary, might take to drink again. 

In the coherence of this life,
     (the faith and ceremonies, a cardinal’s blessing
          once a year doesn’t do much)
     no matter how small it seems
          faith punctuates the daily chores

but it’s the rhythm of the lobsterman’s life 
out and back again, bait and reap 
that sustains as it does for all working men, 
the doing of it.

Kent Bowker

Kent Bowker

 

 

 


Kent Bowker
  started with poetry at Berkeley in the Fifties, then became a physicist working mainly in optics.  His new book of poems is Katharsis: Sifting Through a Mormon Past.  He lives in Essex, next to the Great Marshes and is treasurer of the Charles Olson Society.