Selected Poems 1963 To 2003 Paperback – Apr 26 2005
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"Few contemporary poets have been as influential - or as inimitable - as Charles Simic.' New York Times Book Review; 'Surrealist, and therefore comic, but with a specific gravity in his imagining that manages to avoid the surrealist penalty of weightlessness.' Seamus Heaney; 'There is no American now writing whom I would rather read.' Michael Hofmann"
About the Author
Charles Simic was born in 1938 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia and emigrated to the United States in 1954. His first collection was published in 1971, and in the three decades that have followed he has received numerous awards and honours for his work, including the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN International Award for translation. Since 1973, Simic has taught English at the University of New Hampshire.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I felt that the earlier poems like "Stone", "Butcher Shop" and "Fork" read like meditations on inanimate objects, which invariably seek a deeper significance to them. For example, in 'Stone', the speaker seems to marvel at the imperceptibility connoted in "From outside the stone is a riddle.../ Yet within, it must be cool and quiet", and wondering at the way "sparks fly out/ When two stones are rubbed", which suggests "it is not so dark inside after all". In comparison to the peacekeeping "doves" or anger that "gnash with a tiger's tooth", the tranquility of the stone what can sink "unperturbed" when it is thrown into the water, and with "just enough light", suggests a balance in moderation that the persona is longing for. No grand gestures needed; only silent reflection.
Other poems like "The Writings of the Mystics" critique the romanticism of finding the sacred in the ordinary and mundane. The book the persona hoards excitedly celebrates the "presentiment/ Of a higher existence/ In things familiar and drab...", and the reader is simultaneously made aware of the very prosaic setting the persona is in, nonetheless made "hushed, and otherworldly", in a self-reflexive manner. "Shelley", too, seem to touch on this theme. For example, Simic revels in the lyricism of Shelley's poems, that "spoke of a mad, blind, dying king; / Of rulers who neither see, nor feel, nor know; /Of graves from which a glorious Phantom may /Burst to illumine our tempestuous day", only to compare that with the prosaic image of "Going to have my dinner/ In a Chinese restaurant I knew so well", where the only thing vaguely romantic and fantastical is "a three-fingered waiter", which totally smashes the grand imagery of the previous lines, making it look almost hyperbolic and absurd.
I felt that the later poems reflected a deeper awareness of the failure of language to reflect experience, for example in "The Old World", where the persona acknowledges that "There was something/ Long before there were words". There is also heightened concern with appearance vs reality, e.g. in "The Friends of Heraclitus", where it reads "The world we see in our heads/ And the world we see daily,/ So difficult to tell apart/ When grief and sorrow bow us over", which also reflects a world weariness with trying to seek meaning, where "Nothing is what it seems to be,/ Nor are we" in "Blood Orange".
Simic grapples with the mutability of life, as well as its imperceptibility, but nonetheless continues to seek some answers, , as he asks of the trees in "The Secret Doctrine". "What did they say? / What did they say? / I went badgering / Every tree and brush". There may not be any answers, but the thing is to keep asking.