Role models of greatness.
Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
The title of a 1990 collection of poems was For Louis Pasteur, and every year Bowers celebrated the birthdays of three of his heroes: Louis Pasteur, Paul Valéry and Mozart. According to Clive Wilmer (The Guardian), those three all “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.” Although a rationalist, Bowers's poems are marked by aesthetic refinement and an intense feeling for the mystery of things. He rarely engaged with homosexuality as a literary theme.
Born in Rome, Georgia, Bowers had to leave the University of North Carolina in 1943, when he was called up for military service during World War II, serving in the Counter Intelligence Corps as a translator. At the age of 21 he traversed the ruins of Europe and for a while was stationed at Hitler's retreat at Berchtesgaden, where he participated in the de-Nazification campaign. The impact of those experiences on a sensitive and ethical consciousness influenced his poetry.
After the death of his aged mother, Bowers left his beach front house in Montecito, CA, and moved to San Francisco, where he enjoyed the love and support of an openly gay community. Bowers remained in San Francisco until his death at age 75, fourteen years ago this month.
This poem is typical of Bowers, a writer who lived brightly but wrote darkly:
Living Together (from Collected Poems, 1997)
Of you I have no memory, keep no promise.
But, as I read, drink, wait, and watch the surf,
Faithful, almost forgotton, your demand
Becomes all others, and this loneliness
The need that is your presence. In the dark,
Beneath the lamp, attentive, like a sound
I listen for, you draw near -- closer, surer
Than speech, or sight, or love, or love returned.
Clive Wilmer for The Guardian
Literary critics Donald Justice and David Rigsbee