Weary one night lately I turned to Howard Nemerov for solace. But (as I in fact already knew) "solace" is not what Nemerov offers. He wasn't looking for comforting answers, but new ways of posing the eternal unsettling questions.

I picked up his Collected Poems (1977), hoping to find "The Makers." Not to refresh my memory, because I know it by heart and often recite it to myself and anyone else who will listen, but rather to see what other poems he surrounded it with. But that poem didn't make it into this collection -- perhaps he wrote it after 1977. I did however find this deliciously disturbing reflection on our métier:


Theirs is a trade for egomaniacs,
People whose parents did not love them well.
It’s done by wasps and women, Jews and Blacks,
In every isolation ward in Hell.

They spend their workadays imagining
What never happened and what never will
To people who are not and whose non-being
Always depends on the next syllable.

(And three more stanzas. Click on link for the whole thing.)

Egomaniac? Moi? Maybe so. It is a very odd business, imagining all those people into being and then losing control over what they do, because sometimes the next syllable does not depend on the author but on the logic and rhythm of the prose. We are gods overtaken by our creatures.

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