Howrd Memerov (1920-1991). Courtesy the Library of Congress.

Howard Nemerov
Born February 29 1920(1920-Template:MONTHNUMBER-29)
New York City, New York, United States
Died July 5 1991(1991-Template:MONTHNUMBER-05) (aged 71)
University City, Missouri, United States
Occupation Poet and academic
Nationality United States

Howard Nemerov (March 1, 1920 - July 5, 1991) was an American poet, novelist, and literary critic.[1] He was twice appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress[2]


Nemerov was born on leap day in New York City; his parents were David and Gertrude Nemerov. His younger sister was the photographer Diane Arbus. The elder Nemerov's talents and interests extended to art connoisseurship, painting, philanthropy, and photography — talents and interests undoubtedly influential upon his son.

Young Howard was raised in a sophisticated New York City environment where he attended the Society for Ethical Culture's Fieldston School. Graduated in 1937 as an outstanding student and second string team football fullback, he commenced studies at Harvard University where, in 1940, he was Bowdoin Essayist and he received bachelor's degree at this university. Throughout World War II, he served as a pilot, first in the Royal Canadian Air Force and later the U. S. Army Air Forces. He married in 1944, and after the war, having earned the rank of first lieutenant, returned to New York with his wife to complete his first book.

Nemerov then began teaching, first at Hamilton College and later at Bennington College, Brandeis University, and finally Washington University in St. Louis, where he was Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor of English and Distinguished Poet in Residence from 1969 until his death in 1991. Nemerov's numerous collections of poetry include Trying Conclusions: New and Selected Poems, 1961-1991 (University of Chicago Press, 1991); The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (1977), which won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Bollingen Prize; The Winter Lightning: Selected Poems (1968); Mirrors and Windows (1958); The Salt Garden (1955); and The Image of the Law (1947). His novels have also been commended; they include The Homecoming Game (1957), Federigo: Or the Power of Love (1954), and The Melodramatists (1949).

Nemerov died of cancer in 1991 in University City, Missouri.


Nemerov's work is formalist. He has written almost exclusively in fixed forms and meter. While he is known for his meticulousness and refined technique, his work also has a reputation for being witty and playful. He is compared to John Hollander and Philip Larkin.

"A Primer of the Daily Round" is his most frequently anthologized poem, and highly representative of Nemerov's poetic style. It is an archetypal Elizabethan sonnet, demonstrative of the prosodic creativity for which Nemerov is famous. Another widely appreciated poem is "The War in the Air," which draws on his wartime experience as a pilot. [3]</ref>


Nemerov received many awards and honors, among them fellowships from The Academy of American Poets and The Guggenheim Foundation, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, the National Medal of Arts, the Bollingen Prize for Poetry, and the first Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry.[4]

He received the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, and the Bollingen Prize for The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov.

Nemerov served twice as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, in 1963 and 1964, and again in from 1988 to 1990.[5] He became Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1976.[6] In 1990 he was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

The Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award was instituted in 1994 to honor him, and by 2008 about 3000 sonnets were entered annually in the associated competition.[7]



  • The Image of the Law. New York: Holt, 1947.
  • Guide to the Ruins. New York: Random House, 1950.
  • The Salt Garden. Boston: Little, Brown, 1955.
  • Small Moment. Ward Ritchie Press, 1957.
  • Mirrors and Windows. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958.
  • New and Selected Poems. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960.
  • Endor: Drama in one act (verse drama). Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1961.
  • The Next Room of the Dream: Poems and two plays (includes the verse plays "Endor" and "Cain"). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962.
  • The Blue Swallows. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967.
  • A Sequence of Seven, with a drawing by Ron Slaughter. Tinker Press, 1967.
  • The Winter Lightning: Selected poems. Rapp & Whiting, 1968.
  • The Painter Dreaming in the Scholar's House (limited edition). New York: Phoenix Book Shop, 1968.
  • Gnomes and Occasions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973.
  • The Western Approaches: Poems, 1973-75. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975.
  • The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.
  • Sentences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.
  • Inside the Onion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.
  • War Stories: Poems about long ago and now. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.
  • Trying Conclusions: New and selected poems, 1961-1991. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.
  • The Selected Poems of Howard Nemerov. Athens, GA: Swallow Press, 2003.


  • The Melodramatists. New York: Random House, 1949.
  • Federigo: Or the Power of Love. Boston: Little, Brown, 1954.
  • The Homecoming Game. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957.

Short fictionEdit

  • A Commodity of Dreams, and other stories. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1959.
  • Stories, Fables, and other diversions. Boston: Godine, 1971.


  • Poetry and Fiction: Essays. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1963.
  • Journal of the Fictive Life (autobiography). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1965
    • (with a new preface), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.
  • Reflexions on Poetry and Poetics. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1972.
  • Figures of Thought: Speculations on the meaning of poetry, and other essays. David R. Godine, 1978.
  • New and Selected Essays (foreword by Kenneth Burke). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985.
  • The Oak in the Acorn: On remembrance of things past / Teaching Proust, Who Will Never Learn. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1987.
  • A Howard Nemerov Reader. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1991.


  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Selected poetry (editor & introduction). New York: Dell, 1959.
  • Poets on Poetry (editor & contributor). New York: Basic Books, 1965.
  • Marianne Moore, Poetry and Criticism. Adams House & Lowell House Printers, 1965.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation. [8]

Audio / videoEdit

5 Poems by Howard Nemerov11:18

5 Poems by Howard Nemerov

  • The Poetry of Howard Nemerov (cassette). New York: Jeffrey Norton, 1962.
  • Howard Nemerov II (cassette). Kansas City, MO: New Letters, University of Missouri, [1985?]
  • Howard Nemerov (cassette). New York: Academy of American Poets, 1989.

Except where noted, discographical information courtesy WorldCat.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. Howard Nemerov, Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. Web, Mar. 29, 2013.
  2. "Poet Laureate Timeline: 1961-1970". Library of Congress. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  3. "Howard Nemerov, The War in the Air," Poetry Foundation, June 24, 2012.
  4. Staff writers (18 January 1987). "Nemerov First Winner Of Taylor Poetry Prize". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  5. "Poet Laureate Timeline: 1961-1970". Library of Congress. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  6. Howard Nemerov, Academy of American Poets,, Web, Jan. 29, 2012.
  7. Juster, Mike (October 2008). "So you want to win a Nemerov?". 14by14 (6). Retrieved 2009-03-25. 
  8. Howard Nemerov 1920-1991, Poetry Foundation, Web, June 23, 2012.
  9. Search results = au:Howard Nemerov, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Sep. 17, 2016.

External linksEdit

Audio / video
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