Unpeace in our time, with Howard Nemerov

Last Saturday my neighbors were holding a party so noisy that they couldn't hear the phone when I called to ask them to turn down the music; I was in pyjamas & didn't feel like barging in (I supposed their door was unlocked for their guests), and also I knew it was a big event -- celebrating their impending marriage -- so I just decided to bear it by reading poetry. I decided I wanted the company of someone very wise and witty, and so pulled from my shelves: Nemerov, Howard (1981). The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

I got so involved in reading the section "Guide to the Ruins" (1950) that I kept reading long after my neighbors' party had quieted. Because Nemerov's verse, in this period right after one great war and at the beginning of the next one, in Korea, was far from quieting. Here's one very short example, gruesomely timely in light of today's (and ever day's recently) report of casualties in Iraq:

Honor is saved by the national will,
The burgher throws up his cap.
Gone is the soldier, over the hill,
And the rat has defended his trap.
And this:

These secretly are going to some place,
Packing their belted, serviceable hearts.
It is the earnest wish of this command
That they may go in stealth and leave no trace,
In early morning before business starts.
For much more on Nemerov, including a chance to hear his voice, go to the Howard Nemerov page of the Academy of American Poets. Here I learned that he had served as a pilot in World War II, first in the RCAF and then in the USAF -- he must have been very young; he was born in 1920. I also learned that he died in 1991. (I already knew this odd fact: he was the slightly older brother of Diane Arbus. I don't know what to make of that.)

And on a link on that page of the Academy of American Poets I also found a poem I should have read Saturday night, but isn't included in the "Collected Poems" -- maybe he wrote it later: Insomnia I

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