For Appleton poet Emily Bowles, inspiration can come from anywhere and it often does. For example, while on a run one day Bowles passed by a dead fish on a trail and that imagery provided fodder for multiple poems. A dead fish on a running trail may appear as unlikely inspiration, but there’s a moral to the story.
“Be receptive to the stuff around you,” Bowles says. “Thinking about poetry doesn’t have to be about something beautiful and it doesn’t have to be about something deep.”
Although the thread that runs through much of Bowles’ work is about as deep as it gets – uncovering voices lost to time and circumstance, while strengthening her own.
Bowles holds a doctorate in English and women’s studies from Emory University, yet it wasn’t until a few years ago that she began her exploration of poetry. After battling a case of imposter syndrome while studying the greats of the literary world during her undergraduate studies at the University of Georgia, Bowles gave up on poetry altogether and didn’t write for almost 25 years.
Eventually, Bowles took a workshop through The Mill, a local community of writers in the Fox Valley, which helped reignite her passion for creative expression. She also joined Poetry Unlocked, an open mic opportunity for poets.
She published her first chapbook in 2018 and began to get published in local magazines, win awards and even served as an artist-in-residence at the Appleton Public Library.
With inspiration from female writers such as H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Virginia Woolf and Emily Dickinson, Bowles began to establish her own writing voice and explores the concept of voice in her current work focused on submergences – voices that are lost, literally or figuratively, underwater.
“Knowing how to find a voice has been the underlying story in all of my poetry,” she says. “How can I find points of convergence between my voice and voices that have been lost or sedimented or buried?”
When creating poems, Bowles writes in fits and spurts, binge writing and then detaching completely from her work until she inevitably returns.
“I’ll think of a line, write it down, draw around it, play with it, and then normally when I’m doing something repetitive like knitting, I’ll take the line and figure out what to do with it,” she says.
Preserving the voices of marginalized writers is an important part of Bowles’ work, and something she strives for in her own writing.
“What voices can be embodied in such a way that the individuals with that voice aren’t limited, aren’t circumscribed, and, therefore, aren’t left out of our own stories.”
For more of Emily’s work, visit wfop.org/emily-bowles or visit her on Instagram @embowlden77