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Gary L. Brower

Gary L. Brower, ca. 2011,
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photographer unknown

Gary L. Brower (born Gary Layne Brower, July 30, 1941, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A.; died June 13, 2023, Albuquerque, New Mexico), journalist, author, translator, publisher, critic, organizer, activist, and poet. His interest in haiku dated from his graduate student years. He served as associate editor of American Haiku for three issues in 1967–1968 and published the first comprehensive bibliography of haiku in Western languages in 1972. In the 1970s he largely turned his attention to translating and writing about Hispanic poetry and publishing six collections of his own work. He last lived in Placitas, New Mexico.

Education and Early Life

Brower held a B.A. degree in Spanish and history from Drury University, Springfield, Missouri, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Romance languages and literatures from the University of Missouri at Columbia. He taught at Kansas University, the University of New Mexico, the University of Southern California, and the University of California at Los Angeles. He was visiting professor at University of California at San Diego and served as director of American academic programs in Barcelona and Madrid, Spain, and Guadalajara, Mexico. During a residence in southwestern Oregon, Brower worked with the Mexican migrant farmworker community, producing & directing a monthly Spanish-language PBS-TV program in Medford, ran an English as a second language (ESL) program for migrant camps through Rogue River Community College, Grants Pass, directed the Jackson County Hispanic Library Access Program, worked with the Oregon Committee for the Humanities Hispanic film program, and founded El Noticiero, a weekly Spanish-language newspaper. Earlier, he was employed in various journalistic positions in Los Angeles.

Professional Activities

As a graduate student Brower became interested in haiku, and in the late 1960s published articles titled “A Short History of the Haiku in English” inAmerican Haiku in 1966, “The Japanese Haiku in Hispanic Poetry: Brief Note” in Monumenta Nipponica in 1967, and “El haikai hispano” in Presencia literaria (La Paz, Bolivia) in 1968, and “Rationalism and Western Haiku” in Haiku West in 1969. Brower’s PhD dissertation completed in 1966 was titled The Haiku in Spanish American Poetry; it was formally published in 1973. He was listed as one of two poetry editors for American Haiku issues 5:1 and 5:2 (1967) and 6:1 (January 1968), although no haiku of his appeared in these (or any other) issues of the seminal English-language haiku journal.

In fact, very few original haiku by Brower appeared in print; one exception was:

So cold yet fresh
this autumn morning—
frosty spiderweb.1

And a second one, written for fellow New Mexico haiku poet and painter Álvaro Cardona-Hine:

A new poetic journey:
After the frog’s leap,
you too jump into the pond2
Title page of Gary L. Brower’s
Haiku in Western Languages

Brower produced a landmark publication in 1972, a volume titled Haiku in Western Languages. Robert Spiess, a former colleague of Brower’s on the editorial staff of American Haiku, welcomed the unique bibliography in a review in Modern Haiku, pointing out that the work “contains numerous references to haiku in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French and German, [but] the major part is devoted to a bibliography of haiku in English as Dr. Brower informs us that occidental interest in haiku is the most highly developed in this language.”

Spiess continued, “Readers will find the comments that Dr. Brower appends to the entries to be especially informative. His brief histories of the development of haiku both in Japanese and in English, with notes for the other languages, are lucid and present material that may not commonly be known even among haiku poets.”

As a randomly selected example of Brower’s deep and careful research, one might cite this entry in the section titled Selected English-Language Haiku in Periodicals:

5) “Haiku in the Japanese Manner from Midwestern Writers.” The Kansas City (Mo.) Star, LXXXVI, 98 (December, 24, 1965), 16.

Includes the top six poems in a haiku contest held in Kansas City and sponsored by KCMO Radio Station and Macy’s Department Store. Some are quite good.

Two years later, however, Étiemble, the prominent French reviewer, especially of Asian literary works, and known for his trenchant and contrarian critique, was less than impressed. The English abstract of Étiemble’s 20-page review in Comparative Literature Studies read in full as follows:

G. L. Brower and D. W. Foster have been courageous enough to try to fill a vacuum by publishing a critical bibliography of “Haiku in Western Languages”. What a great expectation for those interested in this field! Unfortunately, their book does not fill the vacuum: first, because English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish are not the only “Western languages” on which the Japanese haiku has had an impact, and second, because the items in even these few languages are selected at random, with many factual errors (secondhand work, quite often) and without a really critical approach. So that, in spite of my gratefulness for the English, Spanish, and Portuguese sections, which are very useful indeed, if not perfect, I am compelled to express my disappointment that the title is inappropriate.

After the mid-1970s, Brower’s literary activity focused on Spanish-language poetry, although he maintained a lifelong interest in haiku, especially the influence of Japanese haiku on Western, especially Hispanic, poets. He parlayed his PhD dissertation into a book in 1973 and wrote a scholarly article about Jorge Luis Borges and Octavio Paz in 1974, returning to Paz with an essay in Modern Haiku in 1973.

From 2010 to 2016, Brower published Malpais Review, a quarterly anthology of poetry and essays, focusing on New Mexico writers and Hispanic poetry worldwide. He published six collections of his own poetry, edited the work of other poets, and recorded a number of CDs of spoken word and music. He was also a founder and organizer of the Duende Poetry Series that brought nationally prominent poets to read at the Anasazi Winery in Brower’s hometown of Placitas, New Mexico. Brower himself was frequently featured at readings, including the Church of Beethoven / Chatter Sunday music and poetry presentations in Albuquerque.

Author: Charles Trumbull

Sources / Further Reading

  • Brower, Gary. “Borges and Paz: Death by Labyrinth and Resurrection by Dialectic.” Latin American Literary Review 2 (April 1974), 17.
  • Brower, Gary. “El haikai hispano.” Presencia literaria (La Paz, Bolivia, June 24, 1967), 2.
  • Brower, Gary L. The Haiku in Spanish American Poetry. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms, 1967. Ph.D. thesis, University of Missouri, 1966.
  • Brower, Gary L. Haiku in Western Languages: An Annotated Bibliography (With some reference to Senryu). With the collaboration of David William Foster. Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1972.
  • Brower, Gary L. “The Japanese Haiku in Hispanic Poetry: Brief Note.” Monumenta Nipponica 23:1/2 (1968), 187–89. 
  • Brower, Gary. “Rationalism and Western Haiku.” Haiku West 2:2 (January 1969), 42–43. 
  • Brower, Gary. “A Short History of the Haiku in English.” American Haiku 4:2 (1966), 30–34. 
  • Brower, Gary L. “Paz / Haiku / Dialectic.” Modern Haiku 44:2 (Summer 2013), 67–76.
  • Etiemble [René Étiemble]. “Sur une bibliographie du haiku dans les langues européennes.” Comparative Literature Studies 11:1, Special Tenth Anniversary Issue (March 1974), 1–20. Accessible via JSTOR: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40468. Review of Brower, Haiku in Western Languages. In French.
  • “Haiku in Western Languages: An Annotated Bibliography, by Gary L. Brower with the collaboration of David William Foster.” Modern Haiku 3:3 (1972), 47. Books Received.
  • Spiess, Robert. “Haiku in Western Languages: An Annotated Bibliography, by Gary L. Brower.” Modern Haiku 3:3 (1972), 38. Review.
  • “Tribute Poetry Reading for the Late Gary Brower.” Teatro Paraguas website, July 22, 2023: https://www.teatroparaguasnm.org/past-productions/gary-brower; Notice of a reading in memory of Gary L. Brower.
  1. Autumn Selection #4, Haiku Magazine (Toronto) 3:1+3 (Summer/Fall 1969), 39. []
  2. Malpaís Review 6:4 (Spring 2019). []
Updated on September 23, 2023