Howard Nemerov: Poems Themes

Howard Nemerov: Poems Themes

The Divided Nature of Man

The grand unifying theme that persists throughout all of Nemerov’s verse and which connects the other slight less overarching thematic concerns is his obsession man’s divided nature. The conflict between the opposing sides of man’s consciousness become the symbol of the tension that that fractures perspective and perception and produced for those living among the all the revolutionary conveniences of 20th century society pervasive and widespread anxiety such as never had been experienced by so many in such different ways before. This fragmentation of a universal consciousness even extends to the personal as well with Nemerov’s anxiety often stimulated by conflicting loyalties to his poetry and his fiction.

The Effect of the Past on the Present

An important theme related to the mechanics of duality is Nemerov’s fervent commitment to understanding and respecting history, but never allowing it to maintain an authoritarian reign over the present. Many of his poems take as their specific subject important incidents and events of the 20th century, but always with a view toward understanding that however horrific those events may have been, they should not be powerful enough to continue influencing a world that had changed or evolve.

Madness and Sanity

In his fiction as well as his poetry, that sense of the dual nature of man is tackled within the limited thematic confines of searching for the line that separates sanity and madness. The opportunity to explore this theme in greater detail through characterization and plot in his fiction seemed to create what might be termed a leftover bit of substance that got into some verse either through subconscious osmosis or a more concerted effort to dig a drainage line that channeled the effluence seamlessly into the more restrictive mode of poetic expression. Of course, writing that verse in an era defined by the attempts to impose logic and rationality on such expressions of lunacy as fascism and nuclear proliferation probably contributed to the recurrence of this theme as well.

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