Tim Sowa ’14 does not just write poetry, he lives it. For Sowa—an economics major and music minor from Connecticut—written and performance poetry is more than just a creative outlet, it is a lens through which he interacts with the world.
Although Sowa did not become involved in Bowdoin Slam Poets’ Society until midway through his sophomore year, he began writing before college. He said that in his senior year of high school, he was somewhat of an “American cliché of suburban three sport athlete.”
Sowa described himself as a “closet poet” and mentioned that, “I didn’t attach myself to my creative side.” However, that all changed once he arrived at Bowdoin.
“Whether [students] want it or not, [Bowdoin] is a clean slate. You don’t really know who you are until you meet all these people who aren’t like you,” he said. “My poetry has come as a result of…having such a range of topics to study and meeting so many people.”
At Bowdoin, “the personal cathartic side [of poetry] became more of an organizational tool,” he said. “My poetry is sneaking its way into every paper I write.”
Bowdoin Slam Poets’ Society has helped provide Sowa with an outlet through which he can share and experience poetry and language. Sowa said that, “the club has been so supportive, it is like a mini-family to me at this point.” He described the club as a nurturing environment. “We want you to say things to a crowd that you wouldn’t normally say out loud,” he said.
Sowa’s written work also plays an important, albeit different, role in his life. “My slam poetry and writing poetry are so similar and so different,” said Sowa. “The medium through which you experience both of those is the ultimate factor that determines the way you write a poem…so much of slam is the narrator.” He believes that the difference between slam and written poetry is “a presentation of self versus a presentation of work.”
This is a huge theme in his book “Mirror Staged,” which was published this past summer by the Maine Authors Publishing Student Project. He wrote the book under pen name Casey Hayes to separate the work from a connection to his identity. The book addresses “history and identity and memory, and how all three of those are so interwoven already, and how language is the common ground.”
Sowa said the title is, “both as if I’m posing in a mirror staged, and also as I’m trying evoke [Jacques’ Lacan’s] essay and his works but also the transparent recognition that I’m in an identity crisis now.”
The book is influenced heavily by philosophical thought, and relates to “our endless search for self,” according to Sowa. His work has also been impacted by his mentor, Bowdoin professor Anthony Walton, who impressed upon him that, “good readers make good writers.”
For Sowa, poetry does not end at slam performances and book publications. “I’ll always be trying to live, and therefore I’ll always be trying to understand,” he said. “Making poetry is…a lifestyle.” However, he stresses that, “I’ve benefited from poetry…but it’s taken a lot of hard work.”
Sowa hopes to continue his writing after graduation.