Cathy Smith Bowers: A poet’s progress

Published 4:40 pm Monday, May 13, 2013

Editor’s note: The Bulletin asked Good Neighbors columnist Kiesa Kay to catch up with Bowers, the former NC Poet Laureate and a Tryon resident. 

The day Cathy Smith Bowers went temporarily blind, she began to see what her life was meant to be. In the two weeks she sat in darkness, shades drawn, she opened her eyes to what mattered most. All her life had been based on things seen – teaching, writing, living at top-speed and flinging herself in many directions.

Although no cause for the infection ever came to light, when the cure came, Smith Bowers had discovered she had to make some changes.

Former N.C. Poet Laureate Cathy Smith Bowers at right. (photo submitted)

Former N.C. Poet Laureate Cathy Smith Bowers at right. (photo submitted)

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“I believe that if we don’t stop when we need to stop, our bodies will make us stop,” Smith Bowers says. “I decided I had to give up something. I always had wanted to live in the mountains, always, always.”

She already had established herself as a popular writing instructor and well-known poet, although she hadn’t become Poet Laureate of North Carolina yet. Soon after her eyesight returned, she and her husband found their way out of the big city and into her little brown house in Tryon.

“I have never felt as much a part of a place as I have in this little town,” Smith Bowers says. “In other places, I always have been on the periphery of things. I love this town, quirky and always interesting.”

Struggles ensued, as struggles do. Her husband came unglued, and when he died by his own hand, her friends and family gathered around her. Some of her family urged her to leave Tryon, since she’d been here only two years at the time.

“I already knew how to leave,” Smith Bowers said. “I decided I wouldn’t run away this time. I’d stay here.”

And she kept writing. Smith Bowers spent hours with her friends at the coffee shop, and soon Tryon’s residents began to populate her poetry. Her poem “Moonshine” shows how her friends Candy and Sue helped bring her back to life.

“Writing poems is my way of being semi-whole some of the time,” Smith Bowers said. “I used to think I would find what would fix me. After my husband committed suicide, I realized I couldn’t be shocked in the same way ever again. I know now that I can get past it and beyond it. I realized I was healing when I could be joyous again.”