Poet Donates Archives to MasonBy Hope J Smith
Jay Bradford Fowler, Jr., (B.A. English '87) recently donated his poetic archives to George Mason's Fenwick Library. A prolific, recognized poet, Fowler has published 16 books of poetry. In addition to his books, several performances of his work by others have been recorded. The jackets of his books are full of praise for his work from poets and editors alike.
Upon graduation from George Mason, Fowler received the American Poetry Association's Grand Prize and won its winter 1987 National Poetry Competition. His work has since appeared in national magazines, such as The American Poetry Review and Bouillabaisse. Fenwick's Special Collections is in the process of organizing his materials and setting up a website for him (http://www.gmu.edu/library/specialcollections/fowler.html).
Fowler never really liked school as a child, but that changed when he began studying at Mason.
"George Mason was a great place for me. George Mason formed me as an individual. It gave me a context--the context being world literature--in which I could speak out, in which I could write poetry. You have to find out what consciousness is before you can write about it."
Fowler has suffered ill health often in his life. He was born with spina bifida and has since had a series of 16 operations, most to help him walk. Several years after graduating from George Mason, Fowler became ill with degenerative arthritis, from which he still suffers. He wanted to continue at Mason and work toward an M.F.A. in poetry, but he became too ill. Now, he says, he wants Mason students to read his work because he wants to give something back to the university. "And there's nothing more precious [to me] than my poetry."
Despite these hardships, Fowler's poetry expresses a kind of comportment with the world, even when that world includes physical pain. Roger Lathbury, associate professor of English, describes Fowler's early work: "He begins with the incidentals of his daily existence, and then the poem takes a transcendental turn." Acknowledging his spiritual side, Fowler says, "I believe in paradise and that I will go there."
In a prose piece in one of his books, Looking Back on Consciousness (Kumu Books, 1993), Fowler makes a note that "one of the paradoxical and noteworthy things about inspiration is that it enlivens me enough to write the poem...in times of extreme exhaustion and great pain or distress." Fowler has been most inspired by the late poet Allen Ginsberg, but his favorite poets also include Anne Sexton, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Robert Frost.
A self-described mystic, Fowler attributes his mysticism to his connection with the world through the outdoors and his garden. He learned to garden in the sixth grade, and it became his great passion. "Even though we were poor," he says, "we always had a great garden."
Fowler believes the most important things in life are care and dignity. As Americans, we need to realize that we're "sitting on the pinnacle of civilization, living off the fat of the land"; we need to remember it is not enough to build a society of technology. "We have to have a society where people can care about each other," Fowler says. His most recent book, Caged Angel, contains his selected poems. It came out in October 1997.