Howard Nemerov

Howard Nemerov Poems

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned into pieces of snow
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.
...

I

My child and I hold hands on the way to school,
And when I leave him at the first-grade door
...

Before you can learn the trees, you have to learn
The language of the trees. That's done indoors,
Out of a book, which now you think of it
Is one of the transformations of a tree.
...

Innocence?
In a sense.
In no sense!
...

After the red leaf and the gold have gone,
Brought down by the wind, then by hammering rain
Bruised and discolored, when October's flame
Goes blue to guttering in the cusp, this land
...

On the long shore, lit by the moon
To show them properly alone,
Two lovers suddenly embraced
So that their shadows were as one.
...

They're taking down a tree at the front door,
The power saw is snarling at some nerves,
Whining at others. Now and then it grunts,
And sawdust falls like snow or a drift of seeds.
...

Some nights it's bound to be your best way out,
When nightmare is the short end of the stick,
When sleep is a part of town where it's not safe
To walk at night, when waking is the only way
...

He didn't want to do it with skill,
He'd had enough of skill. If he never saw
Another villanelle, it would be too soon;
And the same went for sonnets. If it had been
...

People are putting up storm windows now,
Or were, this morning, until the heavy rain
Drove them indoors. So, coming home at noon,
I saw storm windows lying on the ground,
...

Across the millstream below the bridge
Seven blue swallows divide the air
In shapes invisible and evanescent,
Kaleidoscopic beyond the mind’s
...

Two lovers to a midnight meadow came
High in the hills, to lie there hand and hand
Like effigies and look up at the stars,
The never-setting ones set in the North
...

I tell you that I see her still
At the dark entrance of the hall.
One gas lamp burning near her shoulder
Shone also from her other side
...

The waters deep, the waters dark,
Reflect the seekers, hide the sought,
Whether in water or in air to drown.
Between them curls the silver spark,
...

15.

You see them vanish in their speeding cars,
The many people hastening through the world,
And wonder what they would have done before
This time of time speed distance, random streams
...

This admirable gadget, when it is
Wound on a string and spun with steady force,
Maintains its balance on most any smooth
Surface, pleasantly humming as it goes.
...

You know the old story Ann Landers tells
About the houseife in her basement doing the wash?
She's wearing her nightie, and she thinks, "Well, hell,
I might's well put this in as well," and then
...

Two universes mosey down the street
Connected by love and a leash and nothing else.
Mostly I look at lamplight through the leaves
While he mooches along with tail up and snout down,
...

19.

The fishermen on Lake Michigan, sometimes,
For kicks, they spit two hunks of bait on hooks
At either end of a single length of line
And toss that up among the scavenging gulls,
...

20.

Flaubert wanted to write a novel
About nothing. It was to have no subject
And be sustained upon the style alone,
Like the Holy Ghost cruising above
...

Howard Nemerov Biography

Howard Nemerov was an American poet. He was twice appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1963 to 1964, and again from 1988 to 1990. He received the National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and Bollingen Prize for The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov. He was brother to photographer Diane Nemerov Arbus and father to art historian Alexander Nemerov, Professor of the History of Art and American Studies at Yale University. Biography Born on leap day in New York City, his parents were David Nemerov and Gertrude. His younger sister was the photographer Diane Arbus. The elder Nemerov's talents and interests extended to art connoisseurship, painting, philanthropy, and photography — talents and interests undoubtedly influential upon his son. Young Howard was raised in a sophisticated New York City environment where he attended the Society for Ethical Culture's Fieldston School. Graduated in 1937 as an outstanding student and second string team football fullback, he commenced studies at Harvard University where, in 1940, he was Bowdoin Essayist and he received bachelor's degree at this university. Throughout World War II, he served as a pilot, first in the Royal Canadian Air Force and later the U. S. Army Air Forces. He married in 1944, and after the war, having earned the rank of first lieutenant, returned to New York with his wife to complete his first book. Nemerov then began teaching, first at Hamilton College and later at Bennington College, Brandeis University, and finally Washington University in St. Louis, where he was Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor of English and Distinguished Poet in Residence from 1969 until his death in 1991. Nemerov's numerous collections of poetry include Trying Conclusions: New and Selected Poems, 1961-1991 (University of Chicago Press, 1991); The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (1977), which won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Bollingen Prize; The Winter Lightning: Selected Poems (1968); Mirrors and Windows (1958); The Salt Garden (1955); and The Image of the Law (1947). His novels have also been commended; they include The Homecoming Game (1957), Federigo: Or the Power of Love (1954), and The Melodramatists (1949). Nemerov received many awards and honors, among them fellowships from The Academy of American Poets and The Guggenheim Foundation, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, the National Medal of Arts, the Bollingen Prize for Poetry, and the first Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry. Nemerov served as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress in 1963 and 1964, as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets beginning in 1976, and two terms as poet laureate of the United States from 1988 to 1990. In 1990 he was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. Nemerov died of cancer in 1991 in University City, Missouri. The Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award was instituted in 1994 to honor him, and by 2008 about 3000 sonnets were entered annually in the associated competition. Poetry Nemerov's work is formalist. He has written almost exclusively in fixed forms and meter. While he is known for his meticulousness and refined technique, his work also has a reputation for being witty and playful. He is compared to John Hollander and Philip Larkin. "A Primer of the Daily Round" is his most frequently anthologized poem, and highly representative of Nemerov's poetic style. It is an archetypal Elizabethan sonnet, demonstrative of the prosodic creativity for which Nemerov is famous. Another widely appreciated poem is "The War in the Air," which draws on his wartime experience as a pilot.)

The Best Poem Of Howard Nemerov

Because You Asked About The Line Between Prose And Poetry

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned into pieces of snow
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.

There came a moment that you couldn't tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.

Howard Nemerov Comments

Sylvia Frances Chan 05 December 2021

TWICE as The Poet Laureate of the USA. Amazing! WOW!

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Sylvia Frances Chan 05 December 2021

CONGRATULATIONS being chosen by our PoemHunter Poemsite as The Poet Of The Day. Hoorray! Twice as The Poet Laureate. WOW!

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Frank Avon 28 October 2014

Howard Nemerov IMO is one of the half dozen or so best US poets of my era - the last half of the 20th century. As he himself has said, he moved from the modernistic, academic, Ezra-Poundish works of his early career to a more natural, more authentic, more personal voice from, say, the late 1950s on. His topics often are simply ordinary life, his tone is often wryly ironic and self-deprecating, but usually - even in his lightest, most frivolous-seeming verse, he makes a point - subtly, kindly (I choose that word deliberately) , and carefully. Though I like most of his poems included in PH, I regret to say that none of my favorites are listed here; hence, I have not been able to include them among my favorite poems. And they certainly belong there, for I cherish them, admire them, and have used them in my teaching many years. A wealth of his best work is in the slim little volume, 'new and selected poems, ' originally published in 1960, but also available as a Phoenix paperback from the U of Chicago P,1963. If you can find a copy of it (check used bookstores online) , I recommend you pay special attention to these (all of which would be in my list of favorites) : 'To Lu Chi' (perhaps his masterpiece) , 'The Pond' (which has most amply rewarded my long study) , 'Death and the Maiden, ' 'Angel and Stone, ' 'Deep Woods, ' 'Boom! ' (a satire on religion and the successful modern man, based on a newspaper clipping with the headline 'SEES BOOM IN RELIGION TOO! ') , 'Sparrow in the Zoo' (very brief and VERY hilarious, with a four-letter word that makes you think twice about your audience before reading it aloud in public) , and many others. Another of my favorites from those years did not make it into this collection: 'Santa Claus, ' a satire on the commercialism of Christmas, which I guarantee will bring the house down - on you - if you read it to young people right before the Christmas break: 'Somewhere on his travels the strange Child / Picked up with this overstuffed confidence man, / Affection's inverted thief, who climbed at night / Down chimneys into dreams, with this world's goods.' (See the Collected Poems from the U of Chicago P, which of course includes the others I've mentioned also.) Back to 'To Lu Chi' for a moment - an exquisite poem, in which the poet Nemerov converses at length with the ancient Chinese poet Lu Chi. He summarizes their similarity across the centuries in these lines, which are perhaps the best brief summary one can find of Nemerov's understanding of the nature of poetry: ......... Neither action nor thought, Only the concentration of our speech In fineness and in strength) ....... Till it can carry, in these other minds, A nobler action and a purer thought.

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Howard Nemerov Quotes

I've never read a political poem that's accomplished anything. Poetry makes things happen, but rarely what the poet wants.

Both poet and painter want to reach the silence behind the language, the silence within the language. Both painter and poet want their work to shine not only in daylight but (by whatever illusionist magic) from within.

Religion and science both profess peace (and the sincerity of the professors is not being doubted), but each always turns out to have a dominant part in any war that is going or contemplated.

Obvious enough that generalities work to protect the mind from the great outdoors; is it possible that this was in fact their first purpose?

The only way out is the way through, just as you cannot escape from death except by dying. Being unable to write, you must examine in writing this being unable, which becomes for the present—henceforth?—the subject to which you are condemned.

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