Howard Nemerov, like so many poets, writes with nuance. He concerns himself with the appreciation of the everyday for the sake of its impermanence, memorializing the small moments which could never last. Unlike other poets, Nemerov is not concerned with showcasing his lexical expertise or his grammatical prowess. He anchors his poems in his ideas, for their own sake.
Although death is ever-present in poetry, Nemerov explicitly addresses the concept in his poetry. "The Vacuum" is an especially acute example. In this text Nemerov describes the lonely vacuum sitting in the corner, unused since the passing of the narrator's wife. Although he observes the dust and laments the vacuum's isolation, he cannot bring himself to clean in her place. The sheer amount of dirt represents an obstacle for the narrator, an impediment between his own well-being and the way things used to be. Unwilling to change, he allows the dirt to accumulate because he's depressed. Why change when he'll die? The poem ends on a grim note, offering insight into Nemerov's own relationship to death and mental health.
Lest Nemerov be characterized solely in the negative, he also writes more hopeful poems. "The Goose Fish" features a couple facing a decision. They have just embarRassed themselves by professing their love through public embrace, but they are caught short by the sight of this dead fish washed ashore. Because the fish's mouth is open in an expression resembling a smile, they determine to interpret the fish's appearance as an omen of good fortune, a blessing upon their budding relationship. Despite the potential for horror and despair, these two resolutely decide to embrace hope and optimism. This poem demonstrates the opposite expression of Nemerov's relationship to temporality, a resolute, almost defiant, hopefulness.