poem index

About this poet

Edgar Bowers was born on March 2, 1924 in Rome, Georgia, where his father ran a plant nursery. During World War II he served in Counter Intelligence, ending his military service in Berchtesgaden, Hitler's eyrie in the Bavarian Alps. The experiences of these years had a deep and permanent effect on his poetry. On his discharge in April 1946 he returned to the University of North Carolina, and then finished his graduate studies with a Ph.D. in English at Stanford University.

In 1956 Bowers published his first collection of poetry, The Form of Loss. His other books of poetry are Collected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997); For Louis Pasteur (1990), which won the Bollingen Prize for Poetry; Living Together (1973); and The Astronomers (1965). Bowers, who received two Guggenheim Foundation fellowships, worked as a professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara for most of his professional career. After retiring in 1991, he moved to San Francisco, where he lived until his death on February 4, 2000.

A Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Collected Poems (1997)
For Louis Pasteur: Selected Poems (1990)
Living Together (1973)
The Astronomers (1965)
The Form of Loss (1956)

The Mountain Cemetery

Edgar Bowers, 1924 - 2000
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,
Commemorating long forgotten biers.
Their roots replace the semblance of these bones.

The weight of cool, of imperceptible dust
That came from nothing and to nothing came
Is light within the earth and on the air.
The change that so renews itself is just.
The enormous, sundry platitude of death
Is for these bones, bees, trees, and leaves the same.

And splayed upon the ground and through the trees
The mountains' shadow fills and cools the air,
Smoothing the shape of headstones to the earth.
The rhododendrons suffer with the bees
Whose struggles loose ripe petals to the earth,
The heaviest burden it shall ever bear.

Our hard earned knowledge fits us for such sleep.
Although the spring must come, it passes too
To form the burden suffered for what comes.
Whatever we would give our souls to keep
Is merely part of what we call the soul;
What we of time would threaten to undo

All time in its slow scrutiny has done.
For on the grass that starts about the feet
The body's shadow turns, to shape in time,
Soon grown preponderant with creeping shade,
The final shadow that is turn of earth;
And what seems won paid for as in defeat.

From Collected Poems by Edgar Bowers, published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random Houe, Inc.  Copyright © 1997 Edgar Bowers. Used with permission.

Edgar Bowers

Edgar Bowers

Edgar Bowers was born in 1924 in Rome, Georgia, where his father

by this poet

poem
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,
At dawn, of seed-time and of harvest-time.
But when high noon gave way to evening, and
The fences lay, bent shadows, on the crops
And pastures to
poem

"Who is Apollo?" College student

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