New & Selected Essays

New & Selected Essays

New & Selected Essays

New & Selected Essays

Synopsis

OSRIC: "My hair is falling out, and no one reads my poems." OSWALD: "My liver is bad, and everyone reads my ads." In this opening dialogue between Osric (a poet) and Oswald (a copywriter) Nemerov exhibits qualities that remain constant through these 26 new and selected essays: the ability to find the perfect wry phrase to show that the world is not quite as it should be and the courage to attack with wit and humor subjects that in others elicit a savage solemnity. None of this is to say, however, that Nemerov is frivolous. As are all the great writers and critics, he is a deeply serious- if nimble- wit who confronts the basic issues of art in life, death, morality.

Thus in "The Swaying Form: A Problem in Poetry" he can say, "So the work of art is religious in nature, not because it beautifies an ugly world or pretends that a naughty world is a nice one- for these things especially art does not do- but because it shows of its own nature that things drawn within the sacred circle of its forms are transfigured, illuminated by an inward radiance which amounts to goodness, because it amounts to being itself."

Excerpt

In the fall of 1990, I realized that my own preferred reading in current poetry as the last decade of the century began was of two kinds: a certain kind of poem about the world of nature written predominantly by poets of the Pacific Northwest, and poems of various provenance that were concerned more or less with matters of religious faith. and as I thought about them, I realized that there was a similarity of direction in these two kinds of poem, though their manner of approach differed. I recognized that I felt a personal affinity with both, which stemmed from a shared preoccupation with that direction; and I was reminded of a Hans Christian Andersen story I had always loved, called "The Bell," which tells how a beggarboy and a prince, taking different paths through the forest in quest of the place from which a mysterious and beautiful bell could be heard ringing, emerged at last, at the same moment, at the shore of a remote lake beside which stood the chapel and its golden-voiced bell.

There were, of course, many other kinds of poem which interested me too, but these two predominated; and my sense of affinity with them and of their parallel movement was not one of formal structure but of content or concern. I note a difference here which may be familiar to others of my age, in that what drew me to the work of various poets when I was in my twenties and thirties was often the shape of their poems . . .

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