Howard Nemerov is the only ‘N’ in the APR anthology, The Body Electric: America’s Best Poetry From The American Poetry Review. In the volume Nemerov sits between Eileen Myles and Frank O’Hara.  Myles defeated O’Hara in Round One of the Scarriet 2011 APR March Madness.

Edward Field, who personally paid a visit to Scarriet recently after his Round One Victory over Donald Justice—a poet I met while at Iowa—had a brief affair with O’Hara in New York City as a young man.

Small world.

Like sports teams which perform poorly, or well, from one game to the next, every time a poem is read, it might knock you flat or leave you bored—you never can tell, even though it’s the same team, it’s the same poem—and it’s always you reading that poem.  Black-robed judgment: that team is this good, that poem is this good must wait on these vicissitudes.

So who knows who will win this particular contest between Edward Field and his Freud poem or Howard Nemerov and his WW II poem?  Who knows how many stars there are in the sky?  Why does anything matter?

MARLA MUSE: Tom, are you intoxicated?

I wish.  I’m sober as a judge. I’m a little hungry. I hear a dog barking somewhere. The cat is crunching its dry food. A distant motorcycle. I’m miserable.  I’m also a little thirsty.  But I’m doing what I love…

MARLA MUSE: O-kaaay…uh…let the game begin!

A very enthusiastic crowd on hand today, Marla!


(applause, cheering)

Whatever Became of Freud?

Has the age of psychology really passed?
Aren’t people interested anymore
in how their toilet training shaped them?


(applause, cheering)


Hate Hitler? No, I spared him hardly a thought,
But Corporal Irmin, first, and later on
The O.C. (Flying), Wing Commander Briggs

MARLA MUSE: Too much information. Both these poets give us too much information!

But I enjoy reading what they have to say…the popularity of Freud, WW II pilot stories…great stuff…

MARLA MUSE: Too much information.  Poetry can suffer from too much information. Gak!  Get them an editor…

Did I just hear the Muse say, “Gak?”


This is nice from Nemerov: “Hitler a moustache and a little curl/In the middle of his forehead,/whereas these/Bastards were bastards in your daily life”

MARLA MUSE: And this is nice from Nemerov: “To wait our turn in their lofty waiting-room,/And on every circuit, when we crossed the Thames,/Our gunners in the estuary below”

The Edward Field poem is a rambling mess.  How did Field beat Donald Justice?

MARLA MUSE: I don’t know, Tom.  But Field is getting spanked by Nemerov today.

Howard Nemerov Advances to the Sweet Sixteen with a 74-58 victory.


  1. Poem support said,

    April 19, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Whatever Became Of: Freud?

    Has the age of psychology really passed?
    Aren’t people interested anymore
    in how their toilet training shaped them?
    Nowadays, nobody talks of their “analysis,” or even
    the less respectable therapies that came into fashion
    about the time we gave up on the couch—
    encounter groups, group gropes, group games, and finally
    just lying on the floor, screaming out the pain.
    Or even, on the lowest level
    (which we all descended to in desperation),
    self-help books: How to overcome depression,
    get more confidence, be popular

    But usually, we were safely in the hands of Freud,
    whose theories, a whole generation beyond Marx swore,
    would rescue mankind from its lot,
    and even, in the views of Reich, end war
    when we liberated our sexuality
    by working through the body’s armouring
    to release our soft and loving primal selves—
    war and love supposedly being incompatible—
    also by sitting for hours in the orgone box to absorb
    the sexual energy of the universe.

    Those were the years when we were all convinced
    we were “neurotic,” discussed our neuroses passionately,
    analyzed our dreams with friends over coffee
    and endless cigarettes—we were fiendish smokers—
    talked of breakthroughs, insights, and sometimes with awe
    of “graduation,” when the “neurosis”
    would finally be “cured,” which meant
    you had worked through your blocks, your inhibitions,
    and you were no longer Acting Out Negative,
    but had found your niche in society—
    meaning, marriage, a career, and forgiving your parents.
    We argued whether this meant the end of “creativity.”

    The air is clearer since “phallic symbol”
    has gone the way of “penis envy” and “Freudian slip.”
    Nobody nowadays blames their failures on their neuroses,
    and if you say “transferences,” everyone assumes
    you’re not talking about your bank accounts.
    It’s no longer news the discovery
    (and Freud deserved the Nobel Prize for it)
    that people’s minds are always on sex.

    But with the same obsession we had with Freud,
    and the same narcissism (how we beat each other
    with that faded cry), people nowadays are able to simply
    turn away from “problems” and wallow in their pleasures,
    making a cult of health, and devote themselves
    just to working on their bodies. Did I say “just”?
    Even Freud was always looking for the roots
    of neurosis in the body. And as Claudette Colbert said
    on observing Marilyn Monroe’s buns,
    “I would have had to start at thirteen.”

    Sadly, true. For us old devotees of the therapies,
    the cornerstone of our faith, Talk
    and you can change your history,
    proved to be bad Freud, and even worse, a fraud—
    far more expensive than the gym and stylish joggers.
    Years of talking, and nothing got solved.
    Except the language of it
    seemed to define the losses of a generation,
    and for all its radiant promises, that was all.

    Edward Field

    • Nooch said,

      April 19, 2011 at 11:17 am

      I loved to go to a female shrink,
      Where I was the star, me and my matrix—
      Describing each kink in lurid detail,
      Not that far removed from seeing a dominatrix.

      And the cost! $200 an hour, lame!
      An hour with a domme (I’ve been told) costs the same.

  2. Poem support said,

    April 19, 2011 at 11:24 am



    Hate Hitler? No, I spared him hardly a thought.
    But Corporal Irmin, first, and later on
    The O.C. (Flying), Wing Commander Briggs,
    And the station C.O. Group Captain Ormery—
    Now there were men were objects fit to hate,
    Hitler a moustache and a little curl
    In the middle of his forehead, whereas those
    Bastards were bastards in your daily life,
    With power in their pleasure, smile or frown.


    Not to forget my navigator Bert,
    Who shyly explained to me that the Jews
    Were ruining England and Hitler might be wrong
    But he had the right idea…. We were a crew,
    And went on so, the one pair left alive
    Of a dozen that chose each other flipping coins
    At the OTU, but spoke no civil word
    Thereafter, beyond the words that had to do
    With the drill for going out and getting back.


    One night, with a dozen squadrons coming home
    To Manston, the tower gave us orbit and height
    To wait our turn in their lofty waiting-room,
    And on every circuit, when we crossed the Thames,
    Our gunners in the estuary below
    Loosed off a couple of dozen rounds on spec,
    Defending the Commonwealth as detailed to do,
    Their lazy lights so slow, then whipping past.
    All the above were friends. And then the foe.

    Howard Nemerov

  3. Poem support said,

    April 19, 2011 at 12:18 pm


    The voice that came out of her
    seems to have chosen her as its earthly vehicle,
    for reasons only the gods can know.

    She spoke of it as separate from her, a wild creature
    she had to struggle to master.

    It floats like a slightly unwieldy bird with a small head,
    whose wings can’t quite control the over-large body
    soaring dangerously low above jagged peaks,
    wobbling in the updrafts.

    Like an Egyptian sculpture of a priestess in profile,
    she held up her large, arresting hands,
    invoking the authority of the ancients—
    hawks, serpents, bulls and suns surrounded her as she sang,
    cut into stone.

    She had that specialized genius for song
    birds have, an intelligence of too high a vibration
    for the practical matters of life.
    But she was unfaithful to her gift—
    even if for the perfectly human and understandable reasons
    of being fashionable and getting a man—
    otherwise she would never have dieted down,
    but would have stayed fat for those spectacular tones,
    living only for art.

    It was almost too operatic that the man she suffered over
    was, fatally, one of the great rats
    who dismissed the most magnificent voice in the world
    as just a whistle in her throat.

    But after her sexless marriage, this was probably
    the first man with a hard on she got together with,
    and duck-like, fixated on, as is so common with us ordinary slobs.
    With some men, whatever they are besides, the cock
    is the best part of them, even if they themselves are monsters
    and, like him, supremely selfish in their lives.
    And perhaps his selfishness is what ravished her,
    for it was sexuality in the raw, the one thing
    singing wasn’t.

    Like Norma, the Druid nun, who broke her vows
    for the love of a mere mortal—though not a Greek but a Roman—
    she, too, was cast aside, not for any high priestess, but a more
    earthly rival, famous widow, jet set icon,
    who didn’t need his powerful cock, just his power,
    and a big allowance.

    She threw away her magic voice for a man who threw her away
    thunderclap in the heavens, an accusing dagger of lightning
    and her crystal brain—
    whose single-minded command like a bird’s
    was to soar, to sing—
    shattered, and she fell.

    Edward Field

  4. Poem/Link support said,

    April 20, 2011 at 9:01 am


    They say the war is over. But water still
    Comes bloody from the taps, and my pet cat
    In his disorder vomits worms which crawl
    Swiftly away. Maybe they leave the house.
    These worms are white and flecked with the cat’s blood.

    The war may be over. I know a man
    Who keeps a pleasant souvenir, he keeps
    A soldier’s dead blue eyeballs that he found
    Somewhere—hard as chalk, and blue as slate.
    He clicks them in his pocket while he talks.

    And now there are cockroaches in the house,
    They get slightly drunk on DDT,
    Are fast, hard, shifty—can be drowned but not
    Without you hold them under quite some time.
    People say the Mexican kind can fly.

    The end of the war. I took it quietly
    Enough. I tried to wash the dirt out of
    My hair and from under my fingernails,
    I dressed in clean white clothes and went to bed.
    I heard the dust falling between the walls.

    Howard Nemerov

  5. Poem support said,

    April 22, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Incident, Second World War
    (in memoriam P.M.B. Matson)

    It was near the beginning of the war. 1940 or ’41,
    when everything was fairly new to almost everyone.
    The bombing of cities we understood, and blackouts, and certainly, thanks
    to the German Army and Airforce, we’d seen dive bombers and tanks.
    But when the fighters came in to strafe with hedge-hopping low attacks
    how many bits and pieces would be picked up to fill the sacks?
    Aircraft cannon were not much fun for the weary grounded troops
    and there wasn’t much entertainment when the Stukas were looping loops
    but nobody knew for certain the percentage who wouldn’t get up,
    how many would be donating their arms or their legs to Krupp.
    So somebody in an office had the very bright idea,
    why not set up an Exercise: machine gunning from the air?
    The War Office would know exactly the kind of figures involved,
    an exciting statistical problem could be regarded as solved.

    In a field they put khaki dummies, on the reverse side of a hill.
    And afterwards, they reckoned, they could estimate the kill.
    Opposite these was the audience, to watch the total effect,
    a sort of fireworks display—but free—the RAF being the architect.
    All arms were represented? I think so. A grandstand seat
    was reserved for top brass and others, a healthy open-air treat;
    enclosed, beyond the dummies, they stood (or sat?) and smoked
    or otherwise passed the time of day, relaxed as they talked and joked.

    An experienced Spitfire pilot was briefed to fly over low
    and give those dummies all he’d got—the star turn of the show,
    with all the verisimilitude of a surprise attack.
    Then to his fighter station he would whizz round and back.
    They waited. And suddenly, waiting, they saw that angel of death
    come at them over the hillside. Before they could draw breath
    he passed with all guns firing; some fell on their faces, flat,
    but the benefit was minimal that anyone had from that.
    He reckoned that they were the dummies, in his slap-happy, lone-wolf way,
    that trigger-crazy pilot. He might have been right, some say.
    But bitterness and flippancy don’t compensate for men’s lives
    and official notifications posted to mothers and wives.

    Nevertheless there were results; percentages were worked out,
    how 10 per cent could be written off, the wounded would be about
    50 per cent or so. Oh yes, they got their figures all right.
    Circulated to units. So at least that ill-omened flight
    was a part of the Allied war effort, and on the credit side—
    except for those poor buggers who just stood there and died.

    Gavin Ewart

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