Thursday, August 02, 2007

Charles Simic named Poet Laureate

And not a moment too soon. Shake out the pillows and quilts, beat the rugs clean and delouse the upholstery. Charles Simic not only has a tentacle-like intelligence, he is also a crack-up. Funniest, cutest, most likely to succeed, you name it. I love him. May I be so bold as to say I probably possibly very likely love him more than you do? In 58 shades of maroon? In ten years aboard the Titanic? At impossible temperatures?

(NYT) Charles Simic, a writer who juxtaposes dark imagery with ironic humor, is to be named the country's 15th poet laureate by the Librarian of Congress today.
Mr. Simic, 69, was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and immigrated to the United States at 16. He started writing poetry in English only a few years after learning the language and has published more than 20 volumes of poetry, as well as essay collections, translations and a memoir.
A retired professor of American literature and creative writing at the University of New Hampshire, he won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1990 and held a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant from 1984 to 1989.
He succeeds Donald Hall, a fellow New Englander, who has been poet laureate for the past year.
James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, will announce Mr. Simic's appointment. Mr. Billington said he chose Mr. Simic from a short list of 15 poets because of "the rather stunning and original quality of his poetry," adding: "He's very hard to describe, and that's a great tribute to him. His poems have a sequence that you encounter in dreams, and therefore they have a reality that does not correspond to the reality that we perceive with our eyes and ears."
Mr. Simic, speaking by telephone from his home in Strafford, N.H., described himself as a "city poet" because he has "lived in cities all of my life, except for the last 35 years." Before settling into academia, he held a number of jobs in New York, including bookkeeping, bookselling and shirt sales. He originally wanted to be a painter, he said, until "I realized that I had no talent."
He started writing poems while in high school in Chicago, in part, he said, to impress girls. He published his first poems in The Chicago Review when he was 21.
Mr. Simic said his chief poetic preoccupation has been history. "I'm sort of the product of history; Hitler and Stalin were my travel agents," he said. "If they weren't around, I probably would have stayed on the same street where I was born. My family, like millions of others, had to pack up and go, so that has always interested me tremendously: human tragedy and human vileness and stupidity."


LKD said...


Thank you for sharing this good news.

I only recently, like in the last few months, fell deeply, totally, head over heels in love with Simic's poetry after reading a poem of his in The New Yorker.

I keep wondering how I got this far into my writing life without having known and loved his poetry. It's like a hole that's been filled when I read him.

Or a hole that's being dug.

Sure, yeah, maybe you love him more than you do, but my love for him is new, true and blue and that has to count for something.


SarahJane said...

Laurel -
so glad about this. they should pay him more than 35K for this, and what's with the 5K travel allowance? He needs MORE.

I probably do love him slightly more than you (smile), or maybe it's just different. Yours is a dig-through-the-night love and mine is a screamer.

do you have a favorite poem of his? not a THE favorite poem, just any one.

LKD said...

"We are like a couple working the night shift in a bomb factory."

I can't extricate that line from me. I can't get it out of my head.

So, I'd have to say if I were forced to blurt out a favorite right now, after searching high and low the past few months and reading everything I could get my hands on by Simic, I keep circling back to Listen.

But I'm also in love love love with "Errata."

This answer could change moment by moment though. Each of his poems is easy to fall in love with. Which is rare. Usually, when I find a poet to love, sooner or later, I start running into poems that fall flat, do nothing for me, seem forgettable. But all of his stuff....just wows me.

And you? Your favorite?

Charlene D. said...

Hey Sarah,

I was pretty pleased, too. Simic's a favorite. I'm sure you love him more than I do, though!

My favorite poem, off the top of my head is White Room, but only because it was my first. (You know what they say about that!)

Now they'll carry more of his stuff at my local B&N. Woot!

SarahJane said...

Hi Char -
Right, there'll be a run on his books. Supplies will dwindle and poems will be hidden in cellars between gallon containers. How does "White Room" start?

Thanks for linking to "Listen," Laurel. That is a good one, and I like that line, too.

If cornered into choosing favorites, today I'll pick "THe Something," which begins

Here come my night thoughts
On crutches...

And i also adore "Late Call:"

A message for you,
Mouse turd:

"Great Infirmaties" is also terrific.


Charlene D. said...

You can read White Room here:

my favorite lines are:

Summer came. Each tree
On my street had its own
Scheherazade. My nights
Were a part of their wild


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