“The flash across the gap of being”

Howard Nemerov is a poet whose work I’d like to know better. He’s the favorite poet of one of my poetry-inclined uncles, and when I took the time to flip through The Selected Poems of Howard Nemerov, I was amazed by the versatility, the breadth, the sheer variety of his work. It’s meaty poetry, the kind that requires many days of reading and re-reading to achieve an understanding.

It was difficult to choose a poem to memorize, since so many in even this small collection are appealing, but I landed on “Moment” for its length (just fifteen lines) and the way the simplicity of the title underscores the complexity of the thought within the poem, which juxtaposes some dozen images with the repeated word “now.” What begins with “Now” and a “starflake” crescendoes to “the mind of God” and the inevitable “now.”  The poem is one sentence, and I found the moments when I needed to take a breath underscored the “nowness” as well. And I’m a sucker for good linebreaks, if you couldn’t tell, and here’s one for the ages: “And now is quiet in the tomb as now / Explodes inside the sun, and it is now” (10-11).

What a mind at work. I’ll be back for more.

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