Nox Oculis

Howard Nemerov (1920-1991)

Poète et romancier américain.

Né le 1er mars 1920 à New York City. Il étudia à Harvard, où il décrocha un diplôme de bachelier en 1941. Durant la seconde guerre mondiale, il servit comme pilote dans les unités de la Royal Canadian Air Force. Il se maria en 1944, et après la guerre, ayant reçu le grade de premier lieutenant, il retourna à New York avec son épouse afin de compléter son premier livre. Il enseigna d'abord au Hamilton College, puis sensuite au Bennington College, à la Brandeis University, ainsi qu'à la Washington University, où il fut poète en résidence de 1969 jusqu'à sa mort.

Nemerov a reçu plusieurs prix et distinctions honorifiques, parmi lesquels : des bourses de l'Academy of American Poets et de la Foundation Guggenheim, une bourse du National Endowment for the Arts, et la National Medal of the Arts. Il fut nommé consultant en poésie à la Bibliothèque du Congrès en 1963 et en 1964, et Chancellier de l'Academy of American Poets en 1976. Il fut également poète lauréat des États-Unis de 1988 à 1990.

Nemerov est mort du cancer en 1991 à University City, au Missouri.

Insomnia I


Earth’s Wrath at our assaults is slow to come
But relentless when it does. It has to do
With catastrophic change, and with the limit
At which one order more of Magnitude
Will bring us to a qualitative change
And disasters drastically different
From those we daily have to know about.

As with the speed of light, where speed itself
Becomes a limit and an absolute;
As with the splitting of the atom
And a little later of the nucleus;
As with the millions rising into billions—
The piker’s kind in terms of money, yes,
But a million in terms of time and space
As the universe grew vast while the earth
Our habitat diminished to the size
Of a billiard ball, both relative
To the cosmos and to the numbers of ourselves,
The doubling numbers, the earth could accommodate.

We stand now in the place and limit of time
Where hardest knowledge is turning into dream,
And nightmares still contained in sleeping dark
Seem on the point of bringing into day
The sweating panic that starts the sleeper up.
One or another nightmare may come true,
And what to do then? What in the world to do?

Howard Nemerov

Amateurs of Heaven

Two lovers to a midnight meadow came
High in the hills, to lie there hand and hand
Like effigies and look up at the stars,
The never-setting ones set in the North
To circle the Pole in idiot majesty,
And wonder what was given them to wonder.

Being amateurs, they knew some of the names
By rote, and could attach the names to stars
And draw the lines invisible between
That humbled all the heavenly things to farm
And forest things and even kitchen things,
A bear, a wagon, a long handled ladle;

Could wonder at the shadow of the world
That brought those lights to light, could wonder too
At the ancestral eyes and the dark mind
Behind them that had reached the length of light
To name the stars and draw the animals
And other stuff that dangled in the height,

Or was it the deep? Did they look in
Or out, the lovers? till they grew bored
As even lovers will, and got up to go,
But drunken now, with staggering and dizziness,
Because the spell of earth had moved them so,
Hallucinating that the heavens moved.

Howard Nemerov

Références :

Oeuvres poétiques :

  • The Image of the Law (1947)
  • The Salt Garden (1955)
  • Mirrors and Windows (1958)
  • The Winter Lightning : Selected Poems (1968)
  • The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (1977)
  • Trying Conclusions : New and Selected Poems, 1961-1991 (1991)

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