Howard Nemerov

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

Quotations

  • ''I've never read a political poem that's accomplished anything. Poetry makes things happen, but rarely what the poet wants.''
    Howard Nemerov (1920-1991), U.S. poet, novelist, critic. International Herald Tribune (Paris, October 14, 1988).
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  • ''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.''
    Howard Nemerov (1920-1991), U.S. poet, novelist, critic. "On Poetry and Painting, with a Thought of Music," Figures of Thought: Speculations on the Meaning of Poetry and Other Essays, Godine (1978).
  • ''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.''
    Howard Nemerov (1920-1991), U.S. poet, novelist, critic. "On the Resemblances Between Science and Religion," Figures of Thought: Speculations on the Meaning of Poetry and Other Essays, Godine (1978).
  • ''Obvious enough that generalities work to protect the mind from the great outdoors; is it possible that this was in fact their first purpose?''
    Howard Nemerov (1920-1991), U.S. poet, novelist, critic. "Reflexions of the Novelist Felix Ledger," sct. C, Journal of the Fictive Life (1965).
  • ''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.''
    Howard Nemerov (1920-1991), U.S. poet, novelist, critic. "Reflexions of the Novelist Felix Ledger," sct. B, Journal of the Fictive Life (1965).

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Insomnia I

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
You have of distancing your wretched dead,
A growing crowd, and escaping out of their
Time into yours for another little while;

Then pass ghostly, a planet in the house

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