Howard Nemerov Essay

1907 words - 8 pages

'Nemerov's contribution to our literature--as a gifted writer of fiction and critical prose, but pre-eminently as a poet-- does not seem to me to have received as much celebrity as it deserves. Nemerov's virtues are all in fact unfashionable ones for our time: vivid intelligence, an irreverent sense of humor, a mastery of formal verse, an awareness of mystery' ('Books' 3). Although known primarily as a poet, Howard Nemerov has also distinguished himself as a critic, short story writer, and novelist. With nearly four dozen published works, Howard Nemerov has become one of America's most distinguished men of writing. His subjects range from all parts of the human mind, from war to religion, ...view middle of the document...

Nemerov is one of the most productive and proficient writers in the modern era. Nemerov's first book of verse, The Image and the Law, appeared in 1947, followed by The Salt Garden (1955), Mirrors and Windows (1958), New and Selected Poems (1960), The Next Room of the Dream: Poems and Two Plays (1963), Blue Swallows (1967), Gnomes and Occasions (1973), The Western Approaches (1975), and Collected Poems (1977). Besides books of poetry, Nemerov has published three works of fiction (The Melodramatics; Federigo, or, The Power of Love; The Homecoming Game), two collections of short stories (A Commodity of Dreams; Stories, Fables, and Other Diversions), two plays (Cain, Endor), two collections of essays and criticism (Poetry and Fiction: Essays; Reflections on Poetry and Poetics), and 'the unclassified literary- psychoanalytical' Journal of the Fictive Life (Donoghue 253). Nemerov has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim in 1968, the Frank O'Hara Memorial Prize in 1971, the National Book Award in 1977, and the famed Pulitzer Prize in 1978. He also edited and introduced poems in the Laurel Poetry Series and is the editor of Poets on Poetry and Poetry and Criticism. In 1965 he was made a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and in 1966 an associate of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.The two main elements in Nemerov's character, poetry and fiction, are reflected in both his life and his work. Nemerov believes that these two elements are opposed and that he must attempt to bring them together. Denis Donoghue states, '. . . this inner division, under constant pressure of Nemerov's poetic discipline and intelligence, accounts for the power of this writer who has become, more than any other contemporary poet, the spokesman for the existential science- oriented . . . , liberal mind of the twentieth century' (250). This deeply divided personality is evident to readers of his poetry and fiction.In his first published work, The Image and the Law, Nemerov's main theme is death. The title of this book alludes to the two methods humans have a way of looking at things. The first way is realistically through the eye, 'image', and the second is imaginatively through the mind, 'law' (Donoghue 254). Throughout this book, Nemerov revolves around his realization of death, a realization brought out from years of fighting in World War II. Nemerov writes about the many types of death: 'casual, callous, accidental, and inevitable' (Donoghue 254).Along with death, Nemerov's other main subjects are cities, religion, and wit. Both religion and wit have carried on in his later poetry. With religion, Nemerov has always referred to it directly. Saints and angels are noted throughout his subjects and titles. References to Christ, God, St. Augustine, and Aquinas are frequent. The humor in Nemerov's poetry is also evident. His wit ranges from the outspoken to 'the more subtle debunking in ''History of a Literary Movement'' (Nemerov 250). Nemerov...

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