Biography of Edgar Bowers
Edgar Bowers was an American poet who won the Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1989.
Bowers was born in Rome, Georgia in 1924. During World War II he joined the military and served in Counter-intelligence against Germany. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1950 and did graduate work in English literature at Stanford University. Bowers published several books of poetry, including The Form of Loss, For Louis Pasteur, and The Astronomers. He won two fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, and taught at Duke University and the University of California, Santa Barbara.
In Bowers's obituary, the English poet Clive Wilmer wrote, 'The title poem of his 1990 collection, For Louis Pasteur, announces his key loyalties. He confessed to celebrating every year the birthdays of three heroes: Pasteur, Mozart and Paul Valéry, all of whom suggest admiration for the life of the mind lived at its highest pitch - a concern for science and its social uses, and a love of art that is elegant, cerebral and orderly.' That is one part of Bowers. Another aspect is picked up by Thom Gunn on the back of Bowers's Collected Poems: 'Bowers started with youthful stoicism, but the feeling is now governed by an increasing acceptance of the physical world.'
That 'physical world' encompasses sex and love, which are refracted through his restrained and lapidary lines. The effect of this contrast is striking: at once balanced and engaged; detached but acutely aware of sensual satisfactions. The style owes much to the artistic ethos of Yvor Winters, under whom Bowers studied at Stanford, but his achievement far surpasses that of his mentor, and his other students, such as J. V. Cunningham. He often wrote in rhyme, but also produced some of the finest blank verse in the English language. He wrote very little (his Collected Poems weighs in at 168 pages), due no doubt to the careful consideration behind every single line. But that care never forecloses on the wilder aspects of human existence--the needs, joys and violence.
Bowers retired in 1991 and died in San Francisco in 2000.
Edgar Bowers's Works:
The Form of Loss (Alan Swallow, 1956)
The Astronomers (Alan Swallow, 1965)
Living Together (David R. Godine, 1973)
For Louis Pasteur (Princeton University Press, 1989)
Collected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997)
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Edgar Bowers Poems
Amor Vincit Omnia
Love is no more. It died as the mind dies: the pure desire Relinquishing the blissful form it wore, The ample joy and clarity expire.
For Louis Pasteur
How shall a generation know its story If it will know no other? When, among The scoffers at the Institute, Pasteur Heard one deny the cause of child-birth fever,
Before he wrote a poem, he learned the measure That living in the future gives a farm-- Propinquity of mules and cows, the charmed Insouciance of hens, the fellowship,
The Virgin Considered As A Picture
Her unawed face, whose pose so long assumed Is touched with what reality we feel, Bends to itself and, to itself resumed,
The Stoic: For Laura Von Courten
All winter long you listened for the boom Of distant cannon wheeled into their place. Sometimes outside beneath a bombers’ moon
An Afternoon At The Beach
I’ll go among the dead to see my friend. The place I leave is beautiful: the sea Repeats the winds’ far swell in its long sound,
The Poet Orders His Tomb
I summon up Panofskv from his bed Among the famous dead To build a tomb which, since I am not read, Suffers the stone’s mortality instead;
The Mountain Cemetery
With their harsh leaves old rhododendrons fill The crevices in grave plots' broken stones. The bees renew the blossoms they destroy, While in the burning air the pines rise still,
Walking back to the office after lunch, I saw Hans. “Mister Isham, Mister Isham,” He called out in his hurry, “Herr Wegner needs you.
1 The autumn shade is thin. Grey leaves lie faint Where they will lie, and, where the thick green was,
The clairvoyante, a major general’s wife, The secretaries’ sibyl, read the letters
The angel of self-discipline, her guardian Since she first knew and had to go away From home that spring to have her child with strangers,
Elegy: Walking the Line
Every month or so, Sundays, we walked the line, The limit and the boundary. Past the sweet gum Superb above the cabin, along the wall—
Dedication for a House
We, who were long together homeless, raise Brick walls, wood floors, a roof, and windows up To what sustained us in those threatening days
For Louis Pasteur
How shall a generation know its story
If it will know no other? When, among
The scoffers at the Institute, Pasteur
Heard one deny the cause of child-birth fever,
Indignantly he drew upon the blackboard,
For all to see, the Streptococcus chain.
His mind was like Odysseus and Plato
Exploring a new cosmos in the old
As if he wrote a poem--his enemy