Writing

By Howard Nemerov 1920–1991 Howard Nemerov
The cursive crawl, the squared-off characters   
these by themselves delight, even without   
a meaning, in a foreign language, in
Chinese, for instance, or when skaters curve   
all day across the lake, scoring their white   
records in ice. Being intelligible,
these winding ways with their audacities   
and delicate hesitations, they become   
miraculous, so intimately, out there
at the pen’s point or brush’s tip, do world   
and spirit wed. The small bones of the wrist   
balance against great skeletons of stars   
exactly; the blind bat surveys his way   
by echo alone. Still, the point of style   
is character. The universe induces
a different tremor in every hand, from the   
check-forger’s to that of the Emperor
Hui Tsung, who called his own calligraphy   
the ‘Slender Gold.’ A nervous man
writes nervously of a nervous world, and so on.

Miraculous. It is as though the world
were a great writing. Having said so much,   
let us allow there is more to the world   
than writing: continental faults are not   
bare convoluted fissures in the brain.   
Not only must the skaters soon go home;   
also the hard inscription of their skates
is scored across the open water, which long   
remembers nothing, neither wind nor wake.

Howard Nemerov, “Writing” from The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov. Copyright © 1977 by Howard Nemerov. Reprinted with the permission of Margaret Nemerov.

Source: The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (The University of Chicago Press, 1977)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Howard Nemerov 1920–1991

Subjects Reading & Books, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Blank Verse

 Howard  Nemerov

Biography

Howard Nemerov was a highly acclaimed poet often cited for the range of his capabilities and subject matter, "from the profound to the poignant to the comic," James Billington remarked in his frequently quoted announcement of Nemerov's appointment to the post of United States poet laureate. A distinguished professor at Washington University in St. Louis from 1969 to 1990, Nemerov wrote poetry and fiction that managed to engage . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Reading & Books, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Blank Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.