Okay, P.W., you go ahead and enjoy my pint. I'll just ask for another. In the meantime, welcome! Please tell our Showcasers a bit about your work as a writer.
(P.W.) I write fitfully, mostly in my study atop my house in Bohemian East Vancouver, a ten-minute walk from The Drive. My selection of poems, entitled A Lamb
, was published by Ekstasis Editions in 2018. It was preceded in 2013 by a selection of short fiction entitled Standing at an Angle to My Age
(Libros Libertad). My writing has appeared in Grain
, The Antigonish Review
, Canadian Poetry Review
, The Moth Magazine, The Ekphrastic Review, The High Window, The Glasgow Review of Books, The Honest Ulsterman, The Galway Review, Ars Medica, Poetry Salzburg Review
and other periodicals and anthologies. You can learn more about my writing life at www.pwbridgman.ca
Q. (Excellent publications.) What do you feel you're best known for?
A. For being largely invisible. I began writing fiction and poetry under the Bridgman pen name in the mid-1980s when I was an articled student-at-law. Believing that it would be easier for everyone—me included—if I kept my writing and professional personae
separate and distinct, I continued in that fashion for 20 years while practising as a lawyer and for another 12 years while serving as a judge. So. Head down. Under the radar. Sempre sotto voce.
But I retired from the bench in late 2019 and, thus, I have relaxed a little now. (For example, I have added mention of my real name—Tom Woods—on my website.) However, because my poetry and fiction are identified with my pen name, I’ve decided to continue writing creatively as “P.W. Bridgman”.
Q. (As you know, I enjoyed reviewing A Lamb here
referencing your "double life" identity, which—obviously—is like a crime fighting superhero. A superhero I still suspect you of being.) And what brought you here?
A. I have always loved to read and, from a relatively early age, to write as well. It seems to be “in the blood,” as they say. Reading the written work of those who have obvious talent has always inspired me to strive for excellence in my own writing. All writers must first be discerning readers, I think.
Q. (That love shows in your writing.) Who's a role model or mentor to you?
A. I have been fortunate to have had a few. Since you are asking about one only, I will mention George McWhirter—a dear friend and, to be sure, a fine mentor. He writes absolutely beautiful poetry and fiction, so he sets a fine example. But, beyond that, he is very generous with his advice and his gentle and insightful criticism. I will forever be in his debt. George is a member of a small writers’ group to which I have belonged for a long time and his guidance, along with that coming from other members of the group, has been very important to my own development (such as it has been) and that of the other members in our little salon.
George’s short story, “Flags,” sits alongside a handful of others in my personal, literary pantheon. It can be found in his book Coming to Grips with Lucy
(Ottawa: Oberon Press, 1982) and I commend it to anyone wishing to closely examine the many intricate, carefully engineered, moving parts of a brilliantly crafted short story, all whirring, spinning and ticking along in perfect synchrony. If ever I manage to write a short story that could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with “Flags,”—a vain aspiration, I know—then I will feel that I have, at last, gotten to the place I have been aiming to reach since I first began creatively putting pen to paper.
Q. (A fond memory was seeing you read alongside your mentor at a Vancouver event. Your mutual respect, and talent, shone through.) What’s your favourite: book, album, movie, and food dish?
A. I am very wary of declaring favourites. It is to be hoped that, as time passes, we all evolve and, through continuing exposure to what’s new (and old), our tastes will be broadened and shaped. So, what may loom large amongst our enthusiasms today may recede into the background tomorrow. In any event, with that caveat:
Book: I know this will sound pretentious but I must take that risk and be truthful. My choice is Joyce’s Ulysses
. I read it every 10-12 years and am currently on my fourth pass. (What better way could there be to fend off COVID-19 ennui
is, at once, exhilarating and infuriating. It must be read differently than other books, with the eye and ear tuned to the musicality and percussiveness of the prose, its humour, its tender sensuality, its garrulousness, its irreverence, its argumentativeness and its total, freewheeling abandon. And one must be prepared sometimes to glide over cultural/biblical/mythological references which, without a great deal of research, one cannot hope to understand or “get”. But Ulysses
is a rich and complex tapestry that rewards the considerable effort (and it is
considerable) that Joyce demands of his reader; new passages at which one marvels are revealed on every re-reading. Ulysses
is a joyous, lifetime project that stirs that part of my blood that can be traced to my Irish forebears in a very primal way.
Album: Easy. Miles Davis and Gil Evans’ Porgy and Bess
. It was recorded in 1958. I have it in vinyl and in digital form. There is no album I have listened to more often than this definitive version of Gershwin’s masterpiece and every squeak, honk, bass arpeggio and drum fill has, accordingly, been hard-wired into my brain permanently. Like Joni Mitchell’s Blue
, or Miles’ Kind of Blue
, this is an Olympian classic of which one never tires. Musical manna from heaven.
(Click the image for P.W. Bridgman's A Lamb at Ekstasis Editions.)