Charles Simic

Born in war-torn Eastern Europe in 1938, and immigrating from Belgrade as a boy, Pulitzer Prize-winner and MacArthur “genius grant” recipient Charles Simic has authored more than sixty books. His work makes a dextrous weave of shadowy subjects and brilliant awakening details. As noted in the Harvard Review, “There are few poets writing in America today who share his lavish appetite for the bizarre, his inexhaustible repertoire of indelible characters and gestures. . . ” – from baby pictures of famous dictators to Jesus panhandling in a weed-infested Eden.

Designating Jackstraws a Notable Book of the Year in 1999, The New York Times noted that “few contemporary poets have been as influential—or as inimitable.” According to the Boston Globe, Simic’s poems “create unforgettable pictures that urge troubling but necessary knowledge.” Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The World Doesn’t End: Prose Poems in 1990, Simic is also a three-time nominee for a National Book Award, for Charon’s Cosmology (1977), Walking the Black Cat (1996), and The Voice at 3:00 A.M (2003). His most recent collection, My Noiseless Entourage, was published in 2005.

Among Simic’s many other awards and honors, he was elected in 1995 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the highest formal recognition of artistic merit in the United States. As a distinguished translator from Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian, and other languages, he has also twice won the PEN International Translation Award. Simic lives and teaches in New Hampshire.

Poetry Center Reading:

Fall 2006

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Windy Evening

This old world needs propping up
When it gets this cold and windy.
The cleverly painted sets,
Oh, they’re shaking badly!
They’re about to come down.

There’ll be nothing but infinite space.
The silence supreme. Almighty silence.
Egyptian sky. Stars like torches
Of grave robbers entering the crypts of kings.
Even the wind pausing, waiting to see.

Better grab hold of that tree, Lucille.
Its shape crazed, terror-stricken.
I’ll hold on to the barn.
The chickens in it are restless.
Smart chickens, rickety world.

From A WEDDING IN HELL (Harcourt, 1994)

My Noiseless Entourage

We were never formally introduced.
I had no idea of their number.
It was like a discreet entourage
Of homegrown angels and demons
All of whom I had met before
And had since largely forgotten.

In time of danger, they made themselves scarce.
Where did they all vanish to?
I asked some felon one night
While he held a knife to my throat,
But he was spooked too,
Letting me go without a word.

It was disconcerting, downright frightening
To be reminded of one’s solitude,
Like opening a children’s book—
With nothing better to do—reading about stars,
How they can afford to spend centuries
Traveling our way on a glint of light.

From MY NOISELESS ENTOURAGE (Harcourt, 2005)

The Birdie

Two-room country shack
On a moody lake.
A black cat at my feel
To philosophize with

Stretched out on the bed
Like gambler
Who’s lost his trousers
And his shoes,

Listening to a birdie raise its voice
In praise of good weather,
Little wriggling worms,
And other suchlike matters.

From MY NOISELESS ENTOURAGE (Harcourt, 2005)

Leaves at Night

Talking to themselves, digressing, rambling on—
Or is it a tête-à-tête we are overhearing?
A flutter of self-revelations, a gust of recriminations
With the moon slipping in and out of the clouds.

A half-mad oak tree affronted by nature’s conduct,
The vagaries of New England weather.
The foolish adoration of every skimpy ray of sunlight,
Or some other disturbing truth?

A mock-heroic farce being played in whispers.
The tree as the hanging judge, the tree as the accused.
Windy night squabble followed by a long hush
As they wait anxiously for our applause.

From MY NOISELESS ENTOURAGE (Harcourt, 2005)

Available as a Broadside.