Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Howard Nemerov, Poet Laureate

ABC Wednesday

The letter is N and I have chosen Howard Nemerov to represent this letter,

partly because he is of the same generation

partly because of Nostalgia (although an American he was once a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force)

but mainly because I admire his poetry.

Howard Nemerov was a Leap Year baby, born on February 29th, 1920.  He obtained a Batchelor's degree from Harvard in 1941, and then during the war he joined the RCAF, later transferring to the American Air Force .

After his discharge he moved to New York with his wife to complete his first book before he turned to teaching, at various Colleges.  He was Distinguished University Professor of English and Distinguished Poet in Residence at Washington University in St. Louis from 1969 until his death in 1991.

His novels include The Homecoming Game, Federigo: Or the Power of Love, and The Melodramatists.

The Collected poems of Howard Nemerov won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Bollingen Prize.

He served two terms as Poet Laureate from 1988 to 1990, and at his death in 1991 the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award was instituted to honor him.  By 2008 about 3000 sonnets were entered annually in the associated competition.

Two of his poems which are representative of Nemerov's style.......

A Primer of the Daily Round  ("demonstrative of his prosodic creativity")

A peels an apple, while B kneels to God,
C telephones to D, who has a hand
On E's knee, F coughs, G turns up the sod
For H's grave, I do not understand
But J is bringing one clay pigeon down
While K brings down a nightstick on L's head,
And M takes mustard, N drives to town,
O goes to bed with P, and Q drops dead,
R lies to S, but happens to be heard
By T, who tells U not to fire V
For having to give W the word
That X is now deceiving Y with Z.
    Who happens just now to remember A
    Peeling an apple somewhere far away.

Because you asked about the Line between Prose and Poetry 
 (frequently taught as an example of an Ars Poetica  "as it describes the nearly imperceptible change  between rain and snow while still maintaining the formal poetic elements of rhyme and meter"

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned into pieces of snow
Riding as 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.

For more of the ABC Wednesday meme click here
  - with thanks to Roger, Denise and all helpers.