Howard Nemerov, 71, an acclaimed and prolific poet and the U.S. poet laureate from 1988 to 1990, died of cancer July 5 at his home in University City, Mo.
Mr. Nemerov was the author of 26 volumes of poetry, criticism, fiction and short stories. His 1978 book, "The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov," which included all his published poetry from 1945 to 1975, won both the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and a National Book Award. In a 1987 White House ceremony, he received the National Medal of Arts for his writing.
He served as a consultant on English-language poetry to the Library of Congress in 1963 and 1964. In 1988, he became the nation's third poet laureate, following one-year terms by Robert Penn Warren and Richard Wilbur. The post was established by Congress in 1985.
On his appointment, Mr. Nemerov, with a pleased ironic laugh, described the job as "sort of a combination emcee and doorman."
As poet laureate, he gave public readings, and composed poems commemorating 200 years of Congress and the maiden voyage of the space shuttle Atlantis.
In announcing Mr. Nemerov's appointment as poet laureate, Librarian of Congress James Billington hailed him for his "remarkable range of poetry, from profound to the poignant to the comic."
Critics of his poetry noted not only its more technical side, such as his mastery of rhythm, diction and imagery, but also his sardonic satire and wit, the broad range of subject matter and his underlying pessimism about the human condition.
Novelist Joyce Carol Oates, writing in the New Republic, said, "Romantic, realist, comedian, satirist, relentless and indefatigable brooder upon the most ancient mysteries -- Nemerov is not to be classified."
In general, his work encompassed early poems highly influenced by the masters of poetry, a middle period of bitter ironies and almost exhaustion, and his last, seemingly more mellow work.
Mr. Nemerov included sports, biology, meteorology and astronomy as some of the jumping-off points for his poems. He was not a fan of overtly political works, telling a Washington Post reporter in 1988: "I've never read a political poem that's accomplished anything. Poetry makes things happen, but rarely what the poet wants."
He showed his affinity for both science and observation in these lines, telling of the gradual transition of a storm from rain to snow:
"There came a moment that you couldn't tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell."
In his 1975 "Cosmic Comics" he wrote:
"There is in space a small black hole
Through which, say our astronomers,
The whole damn thing, the universe,
Must one day fall. That will be all."
Over the years, some critics also compared him to Robert Frost for skill and longevity, if not popularity. He poked fun at his own penchant for privacy and lack of fame when telling one interviewer that he did many public readings because "my books are constantly on the top of the worst-seller charts, so it's the only way I have of making extra money."
His "Frostian" touch can be seen in lines from "A Spell Before Winter":
And I speak to you now with the land's voice.
It is the cold, wild land that says to you
A knowledge glimmers in the sleep of things:
The old hills hunch before the north wind blows."
Howard Stanley Nemerov was born Feb. 29, 1920, in New York City. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force after graduating from Harvard University in 1941. After this country entered World War II, he transferred to the U.S. Army Air Forces. He was a fighter-bomber pilot.
After the war, he became an English instructor at Hamilton College in 1946. He later taught at Bennington College from 1948 to 1966, and at Brandeis University from 1966 to 1968.
Since 1969, he had been affiliated with Washington University in St. Louis, where he taught English and writing. At the time of his death, he was a university professor of English emeritus and distinguished poet in residence.
Mr. Nemerov published his first volume of poetry, "The Image and the Law," in 1947. Two years later, the first of his three novels, "The Melodramatists," appeared. In 1950, he followed with his second volume of poetry, "Guide to the Ruins." His second novel, "Federigo, or, The Power of Love," was published in 1954, and his third poetry collection, "The Salt Garden," in 1955.
His third novel, "The Homecoming Game," published by Simon & Schuster in 1957, was the saga of a professor who flunks the campus athletic star before the big game. It received admiring reviews for its satire and characterization, and was later made into the movie "Tall Story." It starred Anthony Perkins as the athlete and Jane Fonda as his sweetheart.
Mr. Nemerov continued to write and teach, with little interruption. As late as 1987, he had two books published, "War Stories: Poems About Long Ago and Now," and a collection of essays, "The Oak in the Acorn: On Remembrance of Things Past and On Teaching Proust, Who Will Never Learn."
His other awards included the 1981 Bollingen Prize for poetry and the 1978 Theodore Roethke Memorial Prize for Poetry.
Mr. Nemerov had served as chancellor of the American Academy of Poets. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Survivors include his wife of 47 years, the former Margaret "Peggy" Russell, of University City; three sons, David, of St. Louis, Alexander, of Washington, and Jeremy, of Seattle; and his mother, Gertrude Nemerov, and a sister, Renee Sparkia, both of Albuquerque. Another sister was the late photographer Diane Arbus.
Capitol Hill Aide
Victor Reinemer, 68, a former Capitol Hill aide and journalist, died of sepsis July 5 at a hospital in Helena, Mont. He had myelo-dysplastic syndrome, a blood disorder.
In 1955, he came here and joined the staff of Sen. James Murray (D-Mont.) as executive secretary. He held that post until joining Sen. Lee Metcalf (D-Mont.) in 1961. He worked for that senator until serving from 1973 to 1978 as a subcommittee staff director of the Senate Government Operations committee. From 1979 until retiring in 1988, he was editor and publisher of "Public Power," a monthly publication of the American Public Power Association.
He was the co-author, with Metcalf, of a 1967 book, "Overcharge." It was an investigation of electric power rates.
Mr. Reinemer, a former Falls Church resident, lived in the Washington area from 1956 to 1988. A resident of Helena, he was a Montana native. He was a journalism graduate of the University of Montana and was an Army Air Forces pilot in Europe during World War II. From 1951 to 1955, he worked for the Charlotte (N.C.) News, where he became an associate editor.
He had served on the Fairfax County Consumer Protection Board from 1973 to 1983, and on the board of the Wesley Housing Development Corp. from 1975 to 1978. He was a member of Friendship United Methodist Church in Falls Church.
Survivors include his wife, Lois, of Helena; four sons, Eric, of Denver, Michael, of Arlington, Steve, of Portland, Ore., and Jon, of Falls Church; two sisters, Irene Powloski of Circle, Mont., and Elva Beck of Pocohontas, Ill.; and four grandchildren.
JEAN E. PERRIN
Academy of Science Aide
Jean Ellis Perrin, 69, a retired office administrator at the National Academy of Science, died June 30 at Georgetown University Hospital from complications after heart surgery.
Mrs. Perrin, who lived in Washington, was a native of Massachusetts. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College. During World War II, she served in the Navy WAVES. She moved here in the early 1950s, and after working as a secretary for the Red Cross she went to the National Academy of Science about 1960. She retired in 1985.
She then became business manager at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Washington, where she also served as head usher and wedding coordinator. She was a member of the church's Altar Guild. She retired a second time in 1987.
She also belonged to the women's guild of the Episcopal Church Home in Washington.
Her husband, Thomas Perrin, died in 1973. There are no immediate survivors.