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Edgar Bowers Edit Profile

educator , poet

Edgar Bowers, American poet, educator. Recipient Sewanee Review award, 1954, Creative Arts medal Brandeis University, 1978, Creative Arts award University California, 1963, Bollingen Prize Yale University, 1989, Harriet Monroe Prize University Chicago, 1989, American Institute Arts and Letters award, 1991; Jones fellow Stanford University, 1948, Fulbright fellow France, 1950, Guggenheim fellow 1958, 1969.


Bowers, Edgar was born on March 2, 1924 in Rome, Georgia, United States. Son of William Edgar and Grace Lydia (Anderson) Bowers.


He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1950 and did graduate work in English literature at Stanford University.


During World War II he joined the military and served in Counter-intelligence against Germany. Bowers published several books of poetry, including The Form of Loss, For Louis Pasteur, and The Astronomers. 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. The effect of this contrast is striking: at once balanced and engaged. Detached but acutely aware of sensual satisfactions.

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.


  • He won two fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, and taught at Duke University and the University of California, Santa Barbara.


Bowers' 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.


Another aspect is highlighted 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.


Precinct worker Democratic Party, Santa Barbara, 1964-1966. T/Sergeant United States Army, 1943-1946. Member American Civil Liberties Union, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace, Amnesty International.


  • Other Interests

    Avocations: music, traveling.


William Edgar Bowers

Grace Lydia (Anderson) Bowers