Howard Nemerov- The Versatile Writer



"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, and death to nature.
Nemerov was born on March 1, 1920, in New York City. Until he moved to Vermont in 1948, New York influenced most of his poems. Nemerov\'s wealthy and culturally refined parents sent him to Fieldston School. At this private school, Nemerov was an impeccable student and a strong athlete. After graduating in 1937, he went to Harvard, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree. At the start of World War II, Nemerov became attracted to the air force. However, like all poets, this attraction gradually grew into terror at the reality of war ("Nemerov" 249). Nemerov first served as a flying officer with the RAF Coastal Command, attacking German ships over the North Sea. Then in 1944, he was transferred to the Eighth United States Army Air Force, based in Lincolnshire. Later he served in a unit of the Royal Canadian Air Force attached to the United States Air Force. In 1944, he married an English girl, to whom he\'s still married. After the war, Nemerov and his wife lived in New York for a year. During this time, his first volume of poetry, The Image and the Law, was published. In 1946 he held a position as instructor of English at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York; in 1948 he joined Bennington College in Vermont as a teacher, with which he was associated with until 1966, when he moved to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.
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