Stuart Bowditch,
76 Recipes for Mud & Sugar:
A Collection of Poems
from 1994 to 2005

(self-published, 2006)

So many great thinkers have tried to define poetry. Robert Frost, the celebrated American poet, said poetry "is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words." Percy Bysshe Shelley puts it like this: "poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar." Then you get John Ciardi putting it bluntly: "poetry lies its way to truth." Stuart Bowditch manages to support all three definitions.

Stuart, a poet, musician and artist based in the southeast of England, has been writing poetry since the 1990s and, for the first time, has brought his collection together from 1994 to 2005. 76 Recipes for Mud & Sugar begins with poems Stuart penned between 2001-06, during the time he spent traveling around the globe to countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand. But in the poem "Frostalgia," he writes with such depth and inspiration about his hometown that you realize this is a man who didn't need to travel the world to gain insight. A stroll down the road does the trick, too.

"Myspaceddotcom" is a pure spot-on representation of today's Internet culture and yet the simple little ditty is going in my library-filed brain as one of my favourites.

Stuart shows a penchant for writing the haiku, particularly with "Strand of Hair." How can three lines beg so many questions? "Basildon Mud" is a lush rhyming bag of delight. I've been lucky enough to hear this poem read aloud live by Bowditch and it always gets a raucous amount of applause and laughter. It's satisfying to know a poem like this works just as well off the page as it does in your head.

Stuart's fascination for language and presentation leaps out of this book as you discover there are poems written entirely in Spanish and Japanese. In the credits to 76 Recipes, the author thanks "accents" as well as many countries and those who inhabit the countries. It is clear Stuart is highly influenced by these worlds and the words spilling from them, both phonetically and literally. This is an entirely selfish move for a writer. Suddenly what appears to be flipbook animation pops up in the collection, another intriguing quality to add.

I wonder if the poems written in 1996-2000 will be drastically different, considering the jump in ages when written. There are hints of sadness in poems such as "Desperately Cycling Susan" and "Echoes in the Middle of Nowhere," but such humane optimism in "Among the Dandy Lions" makes me want to go and sit in a field somewhere contemplating nature. One of my favourites in this series is "Miss Fondant 1956," as it creates an existential character I immediately build an image for. The final part of Stuart's collection is poems written in 1991-95, which is interesting because it's probably the author's earliest attempts at writing poetry. I love how he finds humour and life in the most mundane of situations, as in "The Joys of a Small Wage." "Tongue Twist(er)" speaks volumes; again, it's Stuart playing with language and sound. No wonder this interest carries over into his poetry and not just his music. There is a lot of experimentation in this last series: "Cherry or Carrot" and "Love Souffle" are prime examples.

Aged 33, Stuart Bowditch has turned his hand to many a genre in many a medium. This includes photography, painting, digital musician, drummer, DJ, filmmaker, linguist, VJ and, of course, poet. He is split between two mirrors, the one reflecting his regular dull job that pays his wage and the other reflecting his artistic and creative manifesto. He prefers to bask in the latter. So long as there is sunlight, clouds, people, plane rides, good food, love, lust, friendship, music, ideas, nature, eyesight and a heart beating behind his ribs, Stuart will continue to create and write lyrics for unsung words that speak deep and resonate within. For this alone, Stuart is a poet among poets and selfless pilgrim.

by Jo Overfield
29 April 2006