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This report is taken from PN Review 133, Volume 26 Number 5, May - June 2000.

Edgar Bowers 1924-2000 Clive Wilmer

The American poet Edgar Bowers died in San Francisco on 4 February. He was 75.

The title of his 1990 collection, For Louis Pasteur, announces his key loyalties. He confesses to celebrating every year the birthdays of three heroes: Pasteur, Mozart and Paul Valéry. All three suggest an 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. Though he was essentially a rationalist, Bowers' poems are marked by extreme aesthetic refinement and an intense feeling for the mystery of things. His friend and teacher Yvor Winters described him as having 'the temperament of a mystical Calvinist', though with 'too good a mind to accept the Calvinist faith or any other'. He was, indeed, brought up a Presbyterian and in certain ways it showed.

Bowers experienced a brief period of prominence in the early 1960s. In Britain, for instance, he was anthologised both by Donald Hall in The Penguin Book of Contemporary American Verse and by Thom Gunn and Ted Hughes in the Faber Five American Poets. But today, even among committed readers of poetry, his name is little known. That being the case, the tally of admirers is an impressive one. It has included Robert Lowell, Richard Wilbur, Geoffrey Hill, Tony Tanner and Harold Bloom, who placed him in his list of modern immortals in The Western Canon. Among younger poets who have ...


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