Poetic Licence

Mark Ford

  • Words for the Taking: The Hunt for a Plagiarist by Neal Bowers
    Norton, 136 pp, £12.95, March 1997, ISBN 0 393 04007 0

The American writer Neal Bowers has published three collections of poetry and two critical books, one on the works of James Dickey and one on Theodore Roethke. For the past twenty years he has occupied a creative writing post at Iowa State University, and, until 1992, led what he describes as ‘a most uneventful life’ in the small town of Ames, Iowa. The majority of poets, he argues in the opening chapter of Words for the Taking, ‘lead lives of quiet inspiration, blessed by the calling that damns us to obscurity’. Bowers’s well-crafted poems earned him a solid reputation on the circuit, and his work was regularly accepted by magazines such as Poetry, whose September 1990 issue included ‘Tenth-Year Elegy’ and ‘RSVP’, two poems in which Bowers contemplates his father’s unexpected death.

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