As if you are entering an eye-opening dream, Kristy Bowen presents a beautiful and poetic world in The Shared Properties of Water and Stars. In this world, Bowen artistically paints the image of a neighborhood, each house with a different story.
As the work progresses, Bowen creates the world like an epic poem, each stanza elaborating more detail to the world she has created. In a small preface of her work, Bowen writes, “There are 3 houses with 3 different ghosts,” though when the first poem is introduced Bowen writes, “There are three houses in three different colors.” As Bowen characterizes the same three houses by color and ghost, she brings up two possible ideas: one, the poem really being about ghosts living in limbo, trying to rekindle their life; and second, people living as ghosts—alive—but not fully living.
Furthermore, what makes Bowen’s work so interesting is the fact that she never calls her characters by name. She relies on their stories and actions to bring them to life. She creates the solemn and deep mood of the poems by illustrating dichotomies between the seasons and the people. Bowen writes, “Autumn works every angle. Kills every/ angle. The blonde girl skips class, hangs out/ in the bathroom and smokes cigarettes,/presses her lips against the mirror…” By setting up the characteristics of the seasons, Bowen is able to relate the disintegration of the fall to the blonde girl’s emotional and physical disintegration. With moments like this, names are not necessary because Bowen excels at fleshing out the pathos of the characters. In this way, the characters are more universal and relatable to anyone who reads it.
Bowen also mixes the consciousness of animals as well as people. At one point Bowen writes, “Rabbit said: Yesterday I was lying and two days after tomorrow I will be lying again.” By giving dialogue to animals, Bowen creates a world rich with consciousness, emphasizing that every living thing has a life worth living. Consciousness is central to the work, because every character deals with some form of internal struggle—who is to say that animals don’t deal with the same thing?
Overall, Bowen is strong in her Pathos and rhetoric to construct a cohesive world of emotional turmoil. With this in mind, the title of The Shared Properties of Water and Stars, takes on different meanings. One of the meanings could be that water and stars may seem different, but both share the quality of being unreachable at points. Water slips through the fingers, and stars can be unreachable in general. Yet both symbolize some kind of renewal of hope. Another meaning is that people feel different like water and stars, yet have a lot more in common. Bowen places these characters living in the same world, living in different spheres, though the characters are unaware that they share similarities.
Raised among the corn fields and twisty back roads of northern Illinois, Kristy Bowen has been writing something or other pretty much ever since her dad taught her the alphabet at 3 years old by bribing her with chocolate. Thus, she spent much of her youth making up stories on swingsets, day dreaming in class, and decadently reading bad horror novels and trashy romances while sprawled across her bed. After an ill-fated career path in Marine Biology as a freshman in North Carolina (tragically ended by her phenomenal badness at even the most basic math), she moved on to Rockford College, where she studied English by day and lurked/toiled behind the scenes of campus theatre productions at night. While there, she developed a love of Sylvia Plath, gothic novels, girls with guitars, the cozy labyrinth of library stacks, and brilliant but troubled men (aka the Heathcliff Complex).