Howard Nemerov Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Howard Stanley Nemerov was born in New York City on March 1, 1920, to David and Gertrude (Russek) Nemerov. His wealthy parents were also cultivated and saw to it that their son was well educated. They sent him first to the exclusive private Fieldston Preparatory School, where he distinguished himself as both scholar and athlete. Nemerov then entered Harvard University, where he began to write poetry, essays, and fiction. In his junior year, he won the Bowdoin Prize for an essay on Thomas Mann. Nemerov graduated in 1937 and immediately entered the Royal Air Force Coast Command as an aviator, based in England. Subsequently, he joined the Eighth United States Army Air Force, which was based in Lincolnshire. On January 26, 1944, Nemerov was married to Margaret (Peggy) Russell (a union that produced three sons, David, Alexander, and Jeremy Seth). In 1945, when he was discharged as a first lieutenant from the Air Force, the Nemerovs moved to New York City to settle into civilian life.

During this time, Nemerov chose, against his father’s will, to become a poet. This was an anguished decision, for tradition decreed that, as the only son, he should carry on the family business. As a “Jewish Puritan of the middle class,” Nemerov felt keenly the separation from custom. In his Journal of the Fictive Life (1965), he credits his emphasis on work to a “guilty acknowledgment that I became a writer very much against the will of my father.”

Because poetry customarily brings more pleasure than money, Nemerov left New York after a year to join the faculty at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. In 1948, he became a member of the English department of Bennington College and taught there until, in 1966, he went to Brandeis University in Massachusetts. During his stay at Brandeis, Nemerov also held interim teaching appointments. He left Brandeis in 1969 to become the Hurst Professor of Literature at Washington University in St. Louis. He became Washington University’s Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor of English in 1976. He completed a writer-in-residency at the University of Missouri at Kansas City in April, 1991, shortly before his death from cancer in July.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Howard Nemerov (NEHM-eh-rawf), a quiet and little-heralded poet throughout much of his life, was born to wealthy Jewish parents who were interested in the arts. Later Nemerov developed an ambivalent attitude toward his relatively protected and privileged childhood. He attended Fieldston School, a preparatory school, and after his graduation in 1937 went on to Harvard University, where he received his B.A. in 1941. After Pearl Harbor, Nemerov enlisted, serving as a pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force Coastal Command and then joining the Eighth United States Army Air Corps. He served in England in 1944 and 1945, and his experience of World War II’s destruction left enduring impressions that colored his first books of poetry. During this time, he fell in love with an Englishwoman, Margaret Russell, and they married in 1944. Nemerov began his academic career in 1946, teaching English at Hamilton College in upstate New York. His first book of poetry, The Image and the Law, was published in 1947, and the following year he moved to Bennington College in Vermont, where he remained for eighteen years. From 1963 to 1964, he was the poetry consultant at the Library of Congress, and after leaving Bennington he taught in a variety of schools, including Washington University in St. Louis.

Nemerov was slow to gain renown. In his first two collections of poetry, his early influences—the views of the New Criticism and the work of T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, and...

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(Poetry for Students)

Howard Nemerov was born in March 1920 in New York City. His parents were wealthy and influential in the city. His father served as president...

(The entire section is 411 words.)