Howard Nemerov Quotes

We may suspect that makers of jokes and smart remarks resemble poets at least in this, that they too would be excluded from Plato's Republic; for it is of the nature of Utopia and the Crystal Palace, as Dostoevsky said, that you can't stick your tongue out at it. A joke expresses tension, which it releases in laughter; it is a sort of permissible rebellion against things as they are—permissible, perhaps, because this rebellion is at the same time stoically resigned, it acknowledges that things are as they are, and that they will, after the moment of laughter, continue to be that way. That is why jokes concentrate on the most sensitive areas of human concern: sex, death, religion, and the most powerful institutions of society; and poems do the same.
Howard Nemerov (1920-1991), U.S. poet, novelist, critic. "Bottom's Dream: The Likeness of Poems and Jokes," Reflexions on Poetry and Poetics, Rutgers University Press (1972).
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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).
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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).
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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).
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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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For a Jewish Puritan of the middle class, the novel is serious, the novel is work, the novel is conscientious application—why, the novel is practically the retail business all over again.
Howard Nemerov (1920-1991), U.S. poet, novelist, critic. "Reflexions of the Novelist Felix Ledger," sct. C, Journal of the Fictive Life (1965).
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It was a wide and moony grin Together peaceful and obscene;
Howard Nemerov (b. 1920), U.S. poet. The Goose Fish (l. 28-29). . . Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, The. Richard Ellmann and Robert O'Clair, eds. (2d ed., 1988) W. W. Norton & Company.
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The ordinary night was graced For them by the swift tide of blood That silently they took at flood, And for a little time they prized Themselves emparadised.
Howard Nemerov (b. 1920), U.S. poet. The Goose Fish (l. 5-9). . . Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, The. Richard Ellmann and Robert O'Clair, eds. (2d ed., 1988) W. W. Norton & Company.
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