Feeling an aggrieved sense of loss for a person one hardly knew may smack of hybris, but in the case of a fan’s attachment to a celebrity (even a literary one) the sense often justifies itself. Whereas the heavens themselves are supposed to blaze forth the death of princes, that of poets laureate is signalled first by Times obituaries, then by posthumous editions. When Howard Nemerov died in the summer of 1991 at the age of seventy-one, a voice was stilled that more than one reader had come to depend on for certain tones, certain “takes,” and a dollop of what our postmodern, millennial sensibility has almost completely eliminated from both its expectations and its vocabulary: wisdom.[1] Wisdom is hard to come by these days, especially from poets.

It is hard to think of him in the past tense.

Where of course he is not. Because of his distinctive voice,...

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