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St. John's author Paul Bowdring had passion for arts

Newfoundland and Labrador writer Paul Bowdring died June 7.
Newfoundland and Labrador writer Paul Bowdring died June 7. - Contributed
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Author Paul Bowdring is being remembered as a unique and fine writer, but also a beloved friend.

Author Don Austin met Bowdring, who died June 7, at Memorial University in the 1960s when both were in their late teens.

In recent years, after Austin came back home after living away for years, their get-togethers involved going for long walks — in homage to the habits of poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth’s strolls about the Lake District of England.

Austin said Bowdring wore a number of hats — as a writer, social activist, husband and father, and man of letters.

He was an impeccable editor.

“It was hard to write him an email,” said Austin. “He kind of kept you on top of your grammar.”

“He kind of kept you on top of your grammar.” — Don Austin

Bowdring grew up on Bell Island, but most of his life was spent in St. John’s.

He was working on his fifth novel when he died, and had taught English at the College of the North Atlantic for 20 years, but gave it up to write full time.

He was a longtime editor of Fiddlehead Magazine and had worked with TickleAce as an editor.

He was instrumental in the foundation of the Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador (WANL), according to his obituary.

The alliance remembered Bowdring with a statement on its Facebook page: “We were saddened to hear of the passing of Paul Bowdring, whose passion for Newfoundland and Labrador literature and the writers of our province was manifest in his involvement with WANL from its earliest days, as well as his contributions to our organization over the years as a past president, board member, volunteer and mentor.”

Storyteller and actor Frank Holden knew Bowdring for 50 years, having met him at MUN.

“Paul was the same person with the same goals from the first time I met him,” said Holden, noting Bowdring’s determined spirit and clear direction.

They were part of a small group of friends who were intent on following a literary/artistic vocation.

“I don’t think we ever talked about it as such,” Holden said. “But that’s what held us together.”

They did, however, talk continuously about literature and arts, as well as the values and ethics of those worlds.

“He was equally as generous socially. He was a very hospitable man.” — Don Austin

Bowdring always displayed a great sense of artistic camaraderie.

“If you had written something and asked him to read it for you, he would read it,” Holden said.

“He was equally as generous socially. He was a very hospitable man.”

Bowdring won the BMO Winterset Award for “The Stranger’s Gallery” in 2013.

Speaking of his novel, “The Night Season,” literary publication Quill and Quire had described his narrative voice as beautifully rendered.

“The imagery and clever wordplay reflect a character impassioned by the written word. This passion — obsession even — is reinforced by the ubiquitous presence of literary quotations. Ranging from Eliot to Shakespeare to Nabokov, they preface every chapter and mark each phase of the book’s development,” Quill and Quire wrote.

Retired Memorial University professor Larry Matthews included some of Bowdring’s work in his graduate class on contemporary Newfoundland fiction.

“Nobody was writing anything like the stuff he was,” said Matthews.

“There was something very meditative, often lyrical about his prose.”

“There was something very meditative, often lyrical about his prose.” — Larry Matthews

Writing about Bowdring’s fourth novel, “Mister Nightingale,” Matthews said: “But most of all there is the delight that Bowdring takes in finding something redeemable, by means of verbal dexterity, in virtually every banal situation in which his protagonist finds himself.”

In the review, Matthews remarked on the novel as “a quirky, funny, wise, and compassionate take on the human condition. Bowdring knows exactly what he’s doing, and he does it gracefully, with aplomb.”

Bowdring is survived by his wife, Glenda Ellsworth, and daughter, Julia Bowdring.

His memorial service is June 21 at Carnell’s Funeral Home in St. John’s.


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