Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Charles Simic


My favorite poet this week is Charles Simic. Born May 9, 1938, in Belgrade, he is a Serbian-American poet and co-Poetry Editor of the Paris Review. He was appointed the fifteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 2007.

After surviving the German bombing and occupation of Belgrade, he escaped Yugoslavia with his mother in 1948 into Austria and France, arriving in the United States in 1954 when he was sixteen. He grew up in Chicago and received his B.A. from New York University. He is professor emeritus of American literature and creative writing at the University of New Hampshire.

I like the way he uses his experience of the brutal history of World War II, twisted with wordplays and a comical sense of humor in his work. Not only is he a profound poet, but a thoughtful essayist on the topics of jazz, art and philosophy.



Classic Ballroom Dances


Grandmothers who ring the necks
Of chickens; old nuns
With names like Theresa, Marianne,
Who pull schoolboys by the ear;

The intricate steps of pickpockets
Working the crowd of the curious
At the scene of an accident; the slow shuffle
Of the evangelist with a sandwich board;

The hesitation of the early-morning customer
Peeking through the window grille
Of a pawnshop; the weave of a little kid
Who is walking to school with eyes closed;

And the ancient lovers, cheek to cheek,
On the dance floor of the Union Hall,
Where they also hold charity raffles
On rainy Monday nights of an eternal November.



"Words make love on the page
like flies in the summer heat
and the poet is only the bemused spectator."
~
Charles Simic


info: Wikipedia, The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry

59 comments:

  1. I enjoy being introduced to new-to-me poets. I feel so sophisticated with this new knowledge! And I can just see his young head tucked under his mother's coat. No miles for me yet today; lots of day job stuff, but there may still be time. Good for you for getting in more miles! (I really do love your blog. It is a gift. Thank you Willow)

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  2. I LOVE being a bemused spectator!!

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  3. every day you teach me something willow. thank you for a giving blog.

    I love the diving bell and butterfly.

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  4. He has such a great face! That crooked smile. Thank you so much for this - you keep pointing me in the direction of such great films and poets.

    Also LOVE it that you've added your hair to your daily check-in. That is awesome!

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  5. I noticed that you are dressed comfortably in your yoga pants and tenis...I'm all for comfort! I wonder if you can ballroom dance in that outfit? I have to go back to read the poet again...I don't think I absorbed it...thank you willow for sharing your passion for the arts.

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  6. Thank you for introducing me to this poet, I will now do some follow up, Happy days, Delwyn

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  7. I've been a Simic fan for ages, & that's a fantastic poem. Thanks for sharing him with your readership.

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  8. Thanks for the introduction to Simic.

    Love this:
    "Words make love on the page like flies in the summer heat..."

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  9. Wonderful poem Willow and obviously an incredibly clever man - thank you for the introduction. Good luck with the walking, xv.

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  10. People are so interesting. 6 billion stories just waiting to be told.

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  11. These days if someone isn't Byron I don't want to know :) I am positively obsessed with George Gordon and I have immersed myself so totally in his poetry that every other poet falls far short.

    I do like coming to your blog though.

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  12. 'the weave of a little kid who is walking to school with eyes closed'.

    What a wonderful line and a pleasing poetical start to my day. Thank you Willowy One.

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  13. The elegance of the title belies the day-to-day choreography of the body. Nice contrast. Nice reminder of a day gone by.

    I've logged 6 mi since the 21st. I am trying (t-r-y-i-n-g) for 2 p/day. Thanks for the push and public accountability by post.

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  14. *:o)=<:::: Thank you,have a nice day.

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  15. Hi Willow, what a pleasant surprise to open your blog and see a familiar name! I guess he is not super famous in the US--judging by other comments--but he is a big name in Serbia, naturally (as far as I know he visits relatively often and sometimes writes articles/reviews for local papers). Thanks for a very nice post :)

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  16. Willow,
    Life is sure filled with intricate dances for us to appreciate.
    rel

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  17. I'm delighted both by the idea behind this poem and its realisation. So simple but so acute - like the famous wheelbarrow.

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  18. Hello,

    I didn't know this poet but I am delighted to hear of him. The little you chose from his work makes me curious for more.

    Thank you
    Gabriele

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  19. I really like his style and am going to Amazon.com to see what books he has available. I knew the good lord provoked me to come here this cold Tuesday morning.

    Brookville Ohio

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  20. I loved the poem and enjoyed even more the quote. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

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  21. my cousin is a published poet, and taught at mcgill in montreal.
    poets....gotta love 'em.

    also gotta love a guy who takes, and releases a head shot like that one !!

    he looks divine !
    .......and so are his words

    xx's to you

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  22. I've returned to say that unrhymed poetry seems so easy compared to the disciplined meters that poets of old would have to do. It's such a shame that modern poets free-word all the time.

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  23. Hello Willow,

    Although all the images are strong, I think I like the last verse most and I would have to read more to know whether his work is for me.

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  24. Goodness willow, my third comment on this post.

    I just popped back to say I didn't mean to sound so reactionary - it is just because I have been studying so much poetry over the last few years that I just think the poets from yesteryear are so superior to most poets of today.

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  25. I like CS very much too. For several yrs he has come to read in a church nearby me in NH though I havent made it to the readings. I too like the thought of being a bemused spectator. Spectator always, bemused is the goal.

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  26. He has captured the dance of everyday life with eloquence and precision.

    What a gift.

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  27. French Fancy, I have a very eclectic taste in poetry, as well as art. I am very open minded when in comes to poetry and what moves me, rhyme or not.

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  28. I must confess I haven't read any of his works, but I will now! Thank you for the 'push'! :-)

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  29. For whatever its worth I did go to Amazon dot com and ordered two of his books.

    "The Metaphysician in the Dark (Poets on Poetry)" Charles Simic; Paperback;

    "A Fly in the Soup: Memoirs (Poets on Poetry)" Charles Simic; Paperback;

    Abraham Lincoln's Blog

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  30. Charles Simic is also a favorite of mine. I like his aproach to poetry and I never forgot these words I read from an interview he gave in 1972 to "Crazy Horse"

    " Silence, solitude, what is more essencial to human condition?
    'Maternal silence" is what I like to call it. Life before the coming of language.
    That place where we begin to hear the voice of the inanimate.
    Poetry is an orphan of silence. The words never quite equal the experience behind them. "

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  31. thank you for sharing this. :) i like my poetry a little more subjective, however his writes are clean, straightforward, and always poignant; i can appreciate that for sure!

    have a great tuesday!

    sarah

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  32. Wow. I'd never heard of this poet before, but I really love this. Thanks, Willow! =]

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  33. I like Simic, too, but I didn't know his background.

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  34. Oh, yes, words do indeed make love on a page and the poets entice us to fall in love with words!

    I was gratified to read your review of A man and a woman and more so, that you enjoyed it so much.

    May I ask you something, if it is not a Willow Manor trade secret? Where do you obtain the stills from the movies to post on your blog? I have only been able to copy movie posters from Wikepedia to liven my movie blogs. I have been searching and searching for a still of Fanny Ardant (my fave French actress) but can't find one anywhere. Thanks Eleanor

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  35. Good to see you've changed your look! (The black background was hell to read-- as well as dreary.... ) I may even visit again!

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  36. Anonymous, thank you. I'll take that as a compliment, I guess! Easy to be so blunt when incognito!

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  37. Eleanor, I just sent you an email about the movie stills. :)

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  38. I'm not familiar with this poet. Thanks so much for the intro!

    By the way, I go out of town for a week or so, and you've overhauled your site! So many new things to poke my nose into! I love your walking comment on the sidebar. I "walked across America" with my farflung family members this last summer by doing the same thing...logging miles. I walked over 440 miles over almost five months. A great idea!

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  39. You've introduced me to another "new" poet. I like Simic's poem very much. Thanks Willow.

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  40. I'm a big fan... at xmas time, I suggested I choose some books for myself at a local shop that would be 'from' my husband. (he jumped at the chance!) 2 of Charles Simic's books were under the tree for moi! Great post :)

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  41. So fun and cheeky at the same time. :) I love the new image on your banner too!

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  42. Willow, are his poems translations from Serbian? I really like this one.

    Kat

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  43. How in the world do you have time to find all these nice things to share with us? Much less then write about them. Thank you for introducing me to a new poet!

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  44. Kat, I believe he has published translations of books of poetry, but the majority of his are in English. He was the US Poet Laureate for 2007-08.

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  45. yes, darling, it truly is.

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  46. I echo Country Girl, Marti, and Tom along with all the many "thank yous" for sharing your passions and insights. Excellent post, Willow!

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  47. Wow his words really weave a picture in your mind, wonderful.

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  48. I love that final quote about words on the page. I'll have to copy that one!

    I noticed on your sidebar that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is your next Netflix. I thought the movie was very well done. I can't wait to hear what you think.

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  49. A good deal of the most thoughtful works of poets and authors come from those who have lived through great adversity. Rather than collapsing under their experiences, those like Charles Simic were somehow able to stretch their hearts, enabling them to see the world's beauty where others only see suffering.

    I'm glad to have found your site.

    Namaste

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  50. Enjoyed the poem very much. Had not come across Charles Simic before. Must do some research. Thanks for introducing him.

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  51. There's an award for you over at my place today. . . .

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  52. Willow - Like some others here, I appreciate the introduction to Simic. Without its title, the relatedness of the various described "dances" did not immediately occur to me . . . I felt like I only "caught" the meaning on the second read-through.

    BTW, I like you in all of your guises.

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  53. A new poet for me...thanks for the introduction!
    I have decided to join you and Leslie for a little daily exercise, I'll be riding my stationery bike...beep, beep!!

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  54. You've probably already won this several times over, but because you make me think, I've given you an award. You can pick it up on my blog.

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  55. wonderful post, and that poem is a good read.

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  56. Beautiful, beautiful! The dance of life...

    Love his portrait!

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  57. I hate to be pedantic, but shouldn't the first line of this poem read "Grandmothers who wring the necks of chickens" ie "wring" not "ring'?

    A very quick check on google revealed another person typwed it with "wring"...

    Love the poem..thanks..esp the little boy going to school with his eyes closed..very precious!

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Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)