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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Those 'Accidental' Poems

“A lot happens by accident in poetry.” – Howard Nemerov

Born in New York City on this date in 1920, Nemerov started writing poetry in high school and had his first works published while studying at Harvard.  After serving as a pilot in WWII, he embarked on a long and distinguished writing and teaching career, capped by 21 years as Poet-in-Residence at Washington University in St. Louis.  He was twice named Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress.

His many collections of poetry, fiction, and prose, as well as his work as an editor made him a major figure in mid-20th century American poetry. About him, Joyce Carol Oates once wrote, “Romantic, realist, comedian, satirist, relentless and indefatigable brooder upon the most ancient mysteries—Nemerov is not to be classified.”     For Saturday’s Poem, here is Nemerov’s,


You see them vanish in their speeding cars,
The many people hastening through the world,
And wonder what they would have done before
This time of time speed distance, random streams
Of molecules hastened by what rising heat?
Was there never a world where people just sat still?

Yet they might be all of them contemplatives
Of a timeless now, drivers and passengers
In the moving cars all facing to the front
Which is the future, which is destiny,
Which is desire and desire's end -
What are they doing but just sitting still?

And still at speed they fly away, as still
As the road paid out beneath them as it flows
Moment by moment into the mirrored past;
They spread in their wake the parading fields of food,
The windowless works where who is making what,
The grey towns where the wishes and the fears are done.

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