Which recently retired BC Provincial Court judge is a published author with two books to his credit – one of short fiction and the other of poetry? Literary reviewers have described him as “a writer of exceptional talent” and “an elegant literary stylist” who uses “language as taut as an Emily Dickinson poem” with both “musicality” and “razor wit”.
This judge began writing and publishing while he was an articling student in the 1980s, using the pen name P.W. Bridgman. Since then, Bridgman’s fiction and poetry have appeared in dozens of literary magazines and anthologies in Ireland, the UK and US, as well as in Canada. His writing has won prizes and been short-listed in literary competitions at home and abroad.
The short stories in Bridgman’s first book, Standing at an Angle to My Age (Libros Libertad, 2013), reveal a writer with very wide horizons – in time, space, genre and style. Set in Britain, Ireland, and Canada, and from World War II to the present, his writing captures the conversation, attitudes and emotions of men and women of all ages and social settings. Longer stories set a mood with dialogue and physical detail as they build to sometimes surprising conclusions, while flash fiction pieces barely a page long illuminate with astonishing clarity the personalities and relationships examined under Bridgman’s lens.
Five years after publishing Standing at an Angle, Bridgman published a collection of poetry titled A Lamb (Ekstasis Editions, 2018). Reviewers have marvelled at his often plain but lyrical language, the variety of poetic forms he experiments with, and his dramatic story-telling – “full of talk and action”. Like his fiction, Bridgman’s poems are human stories told with striking empathy and insight. As a result, although the author acknowledges debts to a pantheon of poets, you don’t need to like poetry to enjoy reading A Lamb. You just need to like a good story.
One reader said, “While reading P.W. Bridgman’s books I laughed out loud, wiped away tears, and occasionally burned with anger. Engrossed by his narratives, I read both books quickly and then immediately read them again more slowly to savour the language and writing.”
Need more clues to our judicial author’s identity? He earned both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in psychology and worked for ten years in the field of behavioural therapy serving persons with autism before graduating from law school in 1987. While practising law as a civil litigator for the next two decades, he was assistant editor (1990-1996) and editor (1996-2007) of The Advocate, a magazine of the Vancouver Bar Association received by all BC lawyers, and also played guitar in a rock band. He was awarded the Allard Law Alumni Association Alumni Award of Distinction in 2006.
By the time of his appointment to the BC Provincial Court in 2007, he had written more than 50 book reviews for Canadian newspapers. During his tenure as a judge he served on the Court’s education committee, technology working group, and Provincial Court Scheduling Project working group. Also a prolific author of scholarly legal articles, he continues in retirement as editor of the London-based Commonwealth Judicial Journal, a publication of the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association and is working on second books of short stories and poetry.
Which BC Provincial Court judge had a pen name? The secret can now be told. It’s Judge Thomas Woods (retired) who is also known as P.W. Bridgman.
For more about his writing, including samples, see www.pwbridgman.ca.