New and Selected Poems: 1962-2012

Overview

“It takes just one glimpse of Charles Simic’s work to establish that he is a master, ruler of his own eccentric kingdom of jittery syntax and signature insight.” -Los Angeles Times
For over fifty years, Charles Simic has been widely celebrated for his brilliant and innovative poetic imagery, his sardonic wit, and a voice all his own. He has been awarded nearly every major literary prize for his poetry, including a Pulitzer and a MacArthur ...

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New and Selected Poems: 1962-2012

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Overview

“It takes just one glimpse of Charles Simic’s work to establish that he is a master, ruler of his own eccentric kingdom of jittery syntax and signature insight.” -Los Angeles Times
For over fifty years, Charles Simic has been widely celebrated for his brilliant and innovative poetic imagery, his sardonic wit, and a voice all his own. He has been awarded nearly every major literary prize for his poetry, including a Pulitzer and a MacArthur grant, in addition to serving as the poet laureate of the United States in 2007 and 2008.

In this new volume, he distills his life’s work, combining for the first time the best of his early poems with his later works—including nearly three dozen revisions—along with seventeen new, never-before-published poems. Simic’s body of work draws inspiration from a range of topics, from the inscrutability of ordinary life to American blues, from folktales to marriage and war.

Consistently exciting and unexpected, the nearly four hundred poems in this volume represent the best of one of America’s most distinguished and original poets.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - Steven Ratiner
Cracking a whip is a two-part process: first, the casting-out motion, a sinuous arc slicing through space—followed by a sharp snapping-back, a reversal so acute the sound barrier shatters, shocking us awake. When Charles Simic is writing at the height of his powers, the effect is very much the same, only punctuated with an explosive silence. We are quietly entranced as he unreels his playful, sly, sometimes nightmarish situations. But then something shifts, veers off-course, swells with intensity. And what had been merely curious, even whimsical, suddenly feels dire, psychologically volatile and more than a little thrilling…New and Selected Poems, 1962-2012 gathers nearly 400 signature pieces spanning the full range of [Simic's] career, and it offers readers the chance to experience and reassess one of the more unique voices in contemporary literature.
Publishers Weekly
Simic is one of America’s preeminent poets as well as a major figure on the world literary scene. Born in Belgrade and resident in the U.S. since his teenage years, Simic’s sensibility was shaped by his earliest war-ravaged memories and a Kafkaesque flair for dark humor and reality stretched just shy of surrealism. His poems from the 1960s and ’70s—such as the famous “Dismantling the Silence (“With a sharp whistle slit its belly open./ If there are ashes in it, close your eyes/ And blow them whichever way the wind is pointing”)—helped shape a poetic generation, while his more recent work (such as this, from “To Fate”: “I can feel you snuggle close to me at night,/ With your hot breath, your cold hands—/ And me already like an old piano/ Dangling out of a window at the end of a rope”) has won Simic almost every honor an American poet can win, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Poet Laureateship. But, until now, Simic’s body of work was split between two publishers and two separate “Selected Poems” volumes. This books brings together, for the first time, poems from Simic’s entire career; it reveals that while his style was largely formed at the beginning, Simic’s tone has loosened, become more conversational, more comical, perhaps more ironic from book to book, accommodating more nakedly autobiographical material, at times more sweetness (“Summer light,” Simic notes, “likes empty churches/ At the blue hour of dawn”), if also some repetition of images, themes, and modes. But this is an essential book. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"[New and Selected] offers readers the chance to experience and reassess one of the more unique voices in contemporary literature. . . Wandering the tangled byways of [Simic’s] imagination, we discover in our own workaday streets a phantasmagoria of the ordinary. . . Playful, sly [and] thrilling."—Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547928289
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/26/2013
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 466,220
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

CHARLES SIMIC was born in Belgrade and emigrated to the United States in 1954. He is the author of many books of poetry and prose. Among other honors, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1990 and served as the Poet Laureate of the United States in 2007–2008.

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Read an Excerpt

Cockroach

When I see a cockroach,
I don’t grow violent like you.
I stop as if a friendly greeting
Had passed between us.
*
This roach is familiar to me.
We met here and there,
In the kitchen at midnight,
And now on my pillow.
*
I can see it has a couple
Of my black hairs
Sticking out of its head,
And who knows what else?
*
It carries a false passport — 
Don’t ask me how I know.
A false passport, yes,
With my baby picture.


Crazy About Her Shrimp

We don’t even take time
To come up for air.
We keep our mouths full and busy
Eating bread and cheese
And smooching in between.

No sooner have we made love
Than we are back in the kitchen.
While I chop the hot peppers,
She wiggles her ass
And stirs the shrimp on the stove.

How good the wine tastes
That has run red
Out of a laughing mouth!
Down her chin
And onto her naked tits.

“I’m getting fat,” she says,
Turning this way and that way
Before the mirror.
“I’m crazy about her shrimp!”
I shout to the gods above.

Relaxing in a Madhouse

   They had already attached the evening’s tears to the windowpanes.
   The general was busy with the ant farm in his head.
   The holy saints in their tombs were burning, all except one who was a prisoner of a dark-haired movie star.
   Moses wore a false beard and so did Lincoln.
   X reproduced the Socratic method of interrogation by demonstrating the ceiling’s ignorance.
   “They stole the secret of the musical matchbook from me,”
confided Adam.
   “The world’s biggest rooster was going to make me famous,”
said Eve.
   Oh to run naked over the darkening meadow after the cold shower!
   In the white pavilion the nurse was turning water into wine.
   Hurry home, dark cloud.


The Common Insects of America

Bumble Bee, Soldier Bug, Mormon Cricket,
They are all there somewhere
Behind Joe’s Garage, in the tall weeds
By the snake handler’s church,
On the fringe of a beaver pond.

Painted Beauty is barefoot and wears shades.
Clouded Wood Nymph has been sightseeing
And has caught a shiver. Book louse
Is reading a book about the battle of Gettysburg.
Chinese Mantid has climbed a leaf to pray.

Hermit Beetle and Rat Flea are feeling amorous
And are going to the a drive-in movie.
Widow Dragonfly doing splits in the yard
Could use some serious talking to by her children
Before she comes to a tragic end.

Unmade Beds

They like shady rooms,
Peeling wallpaper,
Cracks on the ceiling,
Flies on the pillow.

If you are tempted to lie down,
Don’t be surprised,
You won’t mind the dirty sheets,
The rasp of rusty springs
As you make yourself comfy.
The room is a darkened movie theater
Where a grainy
Black-and-white film is being shown.

A blur of disrobed bodies
In the moment of sweet indolence
That follows lovemaking,
When the meanest of hearts
Comes to believe
Happiness can last forever.

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Table of Contents

from Selected Early Poems

Butcher Shop 3
Cockroach 3
Tapestry 4
Evening 5
The Inner Man 5
Fear 7
Summer Morning 7
Dismantling the Silence 9
Bestiary for the Fingers of My Right Hand 9
Fork 11
Spoon 11
Knife 12
My Shoes 14
Stone 14
Poem Without a Title 15
Concerning My Neighbors, the Hittites 16
Invention of Nothing 19
errata 19
The Bird 20
Two Riddles 22
Brooms 23
Watermelons 25
The Place 26
Breasts 26
Charles Simic 28
Solitude 29
The Chicken Without a Head 30
White 32
What the White Had to Say 41
The Partial Explanation 42
The Lesson 43
A Landscape with Crutches 45
Help Wanted 46
Animal Acts 47
Charon’s Cosmology 47
The Ballad of the Wheel 48
A Wall 50
The Terms 50
Eyes Fastened with Pins 51
The Prisoner 52
Empire of Dreams 52
Prodigy 53
Baby Pictures of Famous Dictators 54
Shirt 55
Begotten of the Spleen 56
Toy Factory 57
The Little Tear Gland That Says 58
The Stream 59
Furniture Mover 61
Elegy 64
Note Slipped Under a Door 66
Grocery 67
Classic Ballroom Dances 68
Progress Report 69
Winter Night 69
The Cold 70
Devotions 70
Cold Blue Tinge 71
The Writings of the Mystics 72
Window Washer 73
Gallows Etiquette 74
In Midsummer Quiet 74
Peaceful Trees 75
My Beloved 77
Hurricane Season 78
Note 79
History 79
Strictly Bucolic 80
Crows 81
February 82
Punch Minus Judy 82
Austerities 83
Eastern European Cooking 84
My Weariness of Epic Proportions 85
Madonnas Touched Up with Goatees 85
Midpoint 86

from Unending Blues

December 91
Toward Nightfall 91
Early Evening Algebra 94
Ever So Tragic 94
For the Sake of Amelia 95
At the Night Court 96
Dark Farmhouses 97
Popular Mechanics 98
The Fly 98
Outside a Dirtroad Trailer 99
Dear Helen 100
Trees in the Open Country 100
October Arriving 101
Ancient Autumn 102
Against Whatever It Is That’s Encroaching 103
First Frost 103
Without a Sough of Wind 104

from The World Doesn’t End

My mother was . . . 109
I was stolen . . . 109
She’s pressing me . . . 109
We were so poor . . . 109
I am the last . . . 110
Everybody knows the . . . 110
He held the Beast . . . 110
It was the epoch . . . 110
Ghost stories written . . . 111
The city had fallen . . . 111
The stone is . . . 111
Lover of endless . . . 111
The hundred-year-old . . . 112
Margaret was copying . . . 112
A poem about . . . 112
Tropical luxuriance . . . 112
Are Russian cannibals . . . 113
My guardian angel . . . 113
The old farmer . . . 113
O witches, O poverty! . . . 113
Once I knew . . . 114
Thousands of old . . . 114
A century of gathering . . . 114
The time of minor . . . 115
Lots of people . . . 115
My father loved . . . 115
Someone shuffles by . . . 116
My Secret Identity Is 115

from The Book of Gods and Devils

The Little Pins of Memory 119
St. Thomas Aquinas 119
A Letter 121
Factory 122
Shelley 123
The Devils 125
Crepuscule with Nellie 126
Two Dogs 128
Evening Talk 128
The Betrothal 129
Frightening Toys 130
The Big War 131
Death, the Philosopher 132
First Thing in the Morning 132
The White Room 133
Winter Sunset 134
The Pieces of the Clock Lie Scattered 135
The Immortal 135
At the Corner 137
Cabbage 137
The Initiate 138
Paradise 141
In the Library 142
The Wail 143
The Scarecrow 143
Windy Evening 144

from Hotel Insomnia

Evening Chess 147
The City 147
Stub of a Red Pencil 148
The Prodigal 148
Hotel Insomnia 149
The Inanimate Object 150
Outside Biaggi’s Funeral Home 151
The Tiger 151
Clouds Gathering 153
Folk Songs 154
War 154
A Book Full of Pictures 155
Evening Walk 155
Hotel Starry Sky 156
To Think Clearly 157
The Chair 157
Missing Child 158
Marina’s Epic 158
Lost Glove 160
Romantic Sonnet 161
Beauty 161
My Quarrel with the Infinite 162
The Old World 163
Country Fair 163

from A Wedding in Hell

Miracle Glass Co. 167
Late Arrival 167
Tattooed City 168
Dream Avenue 169
Haunted Mind 169
Paradise Motel 170
A Wedding in Hell 171
The Dead in Photographs 171
Madame Thebes 172
Evening Visitor 173
The Massacre of the Innocents 173
Pascal’s Idea 174
The Clocks of the Dead 175
Wanted Poster 175
Explaining a Few Things 176
The Supreme Moment 176
Crazy About Her Shrimp 177
Transport 178
Love Flea 178
What I Overheard 179
Leaves 180
Paper Dolls Cut Out of a Newspaper 180
Reading History 181
Psalm 182
Empires 183
Romantic Landscape 183
Mystics 184
Imported Novelties 185
Via del Tritone 186
Shaving 187
Trailer Park 187
The Tower 188
The Secret 189

from Walking the Black Cat

Mirrors at 4 a.m. 193
Relaxing in a Madhouse 193
Emily’s Theme 194
Cameo Appearance 195
The Friends of Heraclitus 196
An Address with Exclamation Points 197
What the Gypsies Told My Grandmother While She Was Still a Young Girl 197
Little Unwritten Book 198
Have You Met Miss Jones? 199
Charm School 200
Ghosts 201
Café Paradiso 202
At the Cookout 203
Pastoral Harpsichord 204
Entertaining the Canary 205
Slaughterhouse Flies 206
Blood Orange 206
October Light 207
Sunset’s Coloring Book 207
Late Train 208
Club Midnight 208
Late Call 209
Against Winter 210
The Emperor 211

from Jackstraws

The Voice at 3 a.m. 215
The Soul Has Many Brides 215
The Common Insects of America 216
De Occulta Philosophia 216
Mother Tongue 217
El libro de la sexualidad 218
Mummy’s Curse 218
In the Street 219
Filthy Landscape 220
Prison Guards Silhouetted Against the Sky 220
Jackstraws 221
School for Visionaries 222
Ambiguity’s Wedding 222
Ancient Divinities 223
Obscurely Occupied 224
Head of a Doll 224
On the Meadow 225
Empty Rocking Chair 226
Three Photographs 226
The Toy 227
Talking to the Ceiling 229
Mystic Life 232

from Night Picnic

Past-Lives Therapy 237
Couple at Coney Island 237
Unmade Beds 238
Sunday Papers 239
Cherry Blossom Time 240
People Eating Lunch 240
The One to Worry About 241
The Improbable 242
My Father Attributed Immortality to Waiters 243
The Altar 243
And Then I Think 244
Views from a Train 244
Icarus’s Dog 245
Book Lice 246
Three Doors 246
For the Very Soul of Me 247
Car Graveyard 248
Wooden Church 249
In Praise of Worms 250
The Lives of the Alchemists 250

from My Noiseless Entourage

Description of a Lost Thing 255
Self-Portrait in Bed 255
To Dreams 256
My Noiseless Entourage 257
Used Clothing Store 258
Voyage to Cythera 258
Used Book Store 259
Battling Grays 260
Sunlight 260
Minds Roaming 261
Talk Radio 261
My Turn to Confess 262
On the Farm 262
Snowy Morning Blues 263
To Fate 264
Sweetest 264
The Tragic Sense of Life 265
In the Planetarium 266
The Absentee Landlord 266
My Wife Lifts a Finger to Her Lips 267
Pigeons at Dawn 268

from That Little Something

Walking 271
That Little Something 271
Night Clerk in a Roach Hotel 272
Waiting for the Sun to Set 273
House of Cards 273
Aunt Dinah Sailed to China 274
To Laziness 275
Listen 275
Encyclopedia of Horror 276
Dance of the Macabre Mice 277
The Lights Are On Everywhere 278
Memories of the Future 278
In the Junk Store 279
Madmen Are Running the World 279
In the Afternoon 280
Prophesy 280
A Row of High Windows 281
Secret History 281
Wire Hangers 282
Labor and Capital 283
The Bather 283
Eternities 284
Eternity’s Orphans 287

from Master of Disguises

Master of Disguises 291
Nineteen Thirty-eight 291
Preachers Warn 292
Old Man 293
Nancy Jane 294
Carrying On Like a Crow 295
Driving Home 295
Sightseeing in the Capital 296
Daughters of Memory 296
In That Big House 297
Puppet Maker 298
Summer Storm 298
The Melon 299
The Lovers 299
The Empress 300
The Toad 301
Summer Light 302
The Invisible 302

from The Voice at 3:00 a.m.

Postcard from S. 311
Empty Barbershop 311
Grayheaded Schoolchildren 312
Serving Time 313
Autumn Sky 314
Separate Truths 314
Late September 315

New Poems

I’m Charles 319
Things Need Me 319
One-Man Circus 320
Lingering Ghosts 320
Ventriloquist Convention 321
The Future 322
Softly 323
The Starry Sky 323
Solitude in Hotels 324
In the Egyptian Wing of the Museum 325
Grandpa’s Spells 325
Trouble Coming 326
Nothing Else 327
The Foundlings 327
Strange Feast 328
In a Dark House 328

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