Howard Nemerov

(29 February 1920 – 5 July 1991 / New York City, New York)

Howard Nemerov Poems

1. Political Reflection 6/19/2015
2. The Author To His Body On Their Fifteenth Birthday, 29 Ii 80 5/3/2012
3. Witnessing The Launch Of The Shuttle Atlantis 5/3/2012
4. The Painter Dreaming In The Scholar’s House 5/3/2012
5. The Consent 5/3/2012
6. The Town Dump 5/3/2012
7. To David, About His Education 5/3/2012
8. On An Occasion Of National Mourning 5/3/2012
9. The Murder Of William Remington 4/15/2010
10. Pockets 5/3/2012
11. The View From An Attic Window 4/15/2010
12. A Day On The Big Branch 5/3/2012
13. Magnitudes 5/3/2012
14. Found Poem 5/3/2012
15. Young Woman 4/15/2010
16. A Primer Of The Daily Round 5/3/2012
17. Lion & Honeycomb 5/3/2012
18. The Brief Journey West 4/15/2010
19. Life Cycle Of Common Man 5/3/2012
20. To D—, Dead By Her Own Hand 4/15/2010
21. The Vacuum 4/15/2010
22. Writing 4/15/2010
23. The Icehouse In Summer 4/15/2010
24. Money 4/15/2010
25. Threshold 1/13/2003
26. The War In The Air 4/15/2010
27. The Makers 1/3/2003
28. The Beautiful Lawn Sprinkler 1/13/2003
29. The Dependencies 1/3/2003
30. Style 1/3/2003
31. Kicks 1/13/2003
32. The Lobster 1/3/2003
33. Poetics 1/3/2003
34. Gyroscope 1/3/2003
35. Casting 1/3/2003
36. I Only Am Escaped Alone To Tell Thee 6/30/2003
37. Amateurs Of Heaven 1/3/2003
38. The Blue Swallows 1/3/2003
39. A Spell Before Winter 1/3/2003
40. Storm Windows 1/3/2003

Comments about Howard Nemerov

  • Frank Avon (10/28/2014 2:21:00 AM)

    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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Best Poem of Howard Nemerov

September, The First Day Of School

I

My child and I hold hands on the way to school,
And when I leave him at the first-grade door
He cries a little but is brave; he does
Let go. My selfish tears remind me how
I cried before that door a life ago.
I may have had a hard time letting go.

Each fall the children must endure together
What every child also endures alone:
Learning the alphabet, the integers,
Three dozen bits and pieces of a stuff
So arbitrary, so peremptory,
That worlds invisible and visible

Bow down before it, as in Joseph's dream
The sheaves bowed down and then the...

Read the full of September, The First Day Of School

Casting

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,
Barbed, baited, waiting, of a thought--
Which in the world is upside down,
The fish hook or the question mark?

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