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Leonard E. Nathan, 82; UC Berkeley professor, poet and literary critic

June 09, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Leonard E. Nathan, 82, a poet and literary critic who taught rhetoric at UC Berkeley for nearly 30 years, died Sunday of complications from Alzheimer's disease, his daughter-in-law, Colleen Nathan, said.

Nathan, a longtime resident of Kensington, Calif., wrote 17 volumes of poetry, many of them about relationships or the challenges of living in a harsh world. He once referred to himself as "a poet in search of a saving grace." His style, he said, was to write poetry that sounded conversational.

Poems in "Western Reaches," published in 1958, conjure up images of the California landscape. Another collection, "The Likeness: Poems Out of India," was published in 1975 after Nathan spent a year traveling there.

He also worked on English translations of other poets' verses, including the Polish natives Anna Swir and Aleksander Wat. Nathan was born in Los Angeles on Nov. 8, 1924, and graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in English in 1952 and a doctorate in 1961.

He joined the faculty and became chairman of the department of speech in the 1960s and was later a founding member of the department of rhetoric. He continued to teach at Berkeley until he retired in 1991.

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