Source: Sherman Publications

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Local resident writes poetry book

by Trevor Keiser

May 18, 2011

Bob McGowan signs and presents his book "A Year On The River" to Independence Township Library Director Julie Meredith. Photo by Trevor Keiser
In 2008, award winning photographer Joseph Crachiola spent a year on the Detroit River living on his sailboat the Half Moon, not far from Belle Isle. Each morning around the same time Crachiola would take photographs of his surroundings and e-mail the images to a few friends, one of whom is local resident Bob McGowan.

Inspired by his friend's photographs of distant skylines, cloudscapes, water fowl, ice flows, regattas and freighters or close-ups of dock details, rigging, flotsam, boat, and marina minutia, McGowan began writing poems coinciding with the images.

"I created a folder on a computer with his photos and my poems and I would go back and revise and revise and revise," McGowan said. "Then I said 'I think we have a book here.'"

The book, entitled "A Year On The River," spent several months with a major university press and even though the editor loved it, according to McGowan, the finance department said they couldn't afford to do it. So with no one to print the book, McGowan decided to start his own publishing company, the St. Clair Press.

"We're in the business of helping people publish their own books of any kind," he said. "Memoirs, books of poetry they have, cookbooks, fiction, or the history of their company, just about anything they want."

Photos and the related poems, presented in chronological order, trace seasonal changes in life on the Detroit River.

"The book should hold a special appeal to nature lovers, boaters, and people wanting to see and show a positive view of Detroit," McGowan said.

He also pointed out the book was written, photographed, printed, and bound in Michigan, which may also give it a special appeal to locals.

"It could have been cheaper had I sent it to China or other places," he said. "But I believe in doing the business locally and keeping the business in Michigan."

The book was designed by James Russel who also designed two books on Clarkston History, which are in the Independence Township Library and used in classrooms.

McGowan was born in Toledo and grew up in Rochester Hills. He said his poetry writing goes back to 17 years old in college.

"I kind of put that on the shelf for awhile and got back to it fairly seriously maybe 10-12 years ago," he said. "I've had poems published in the Oakland University Journal, Andrei Codrescu 'Exquisite Corpse,' an online magazine."

He graduated from Oakland University with a BA in English and minor in French in 1967 and then received his Master's in English from OU in 1974. After that, he spent 35 years in creative roles and partnerships with advertising agencies in Detroit and Los Angeles, and is a former Adcrafter.

He moved from Birmingham with his wife Barbra to Bittersweet Farm in Independence Township, 21 years ago. Since then he has taken an active role in the community, having served on the Independence Township Planning Commission, as well as being a master gardener, National Garden Writer member and was for many years a member of Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan board of directors. He is currently on their advisory board.

He also founded and is the executive director of Bittersweet Farm Plant-A-Row Community Garden that for 19 years has supplied the food bank with organically-grown vegetables, 5,590 pounds in 2010.

When not writing poetry or working on the farm, Bob and Barbra enjoy time with their kids and three granddaughters.

"A Year On The River" is available at the Union General, and there will be a book signing at Independence Township Library in the upcoming months.

For more information, visit or call Bob McGowan at 248-620-0111 or email