Struggling Times

Overview

Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Louis Simpson has been a leading figure in American letters for more than half a century. Born in the West Indies, Simpson immigrated to the United States at the age of seventeen. He studied at Columbia University, then served the US Army in active duty in Europe during World War II. After the war he continued his studies at Columbia and at the University of Paris. While living in France, he published his first book of poems, The Arrivistes (1949).

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Overview

Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Louis Simpson has been a leading figure in American letters for more than half a century. Born in the West Indies, Simpson immigrated to the United States at the age of seventeen. He studied at Columbia University, then served the US Army in active duty in Europe during World War II. After the war he continued his studies at Columbia and at the University of Paris. While living in France, he published his first book of poems, The Arrivistes (1949).

The poems in Struggling Times find Simpson’s distinct imaginative voice working at its full poetic power. Both timely and personal, the poems reveal Simpson’s ongoing quarrel with suburban America, as well as the American government’s struggle to retain its integrity and honor in the midst of its own aggression and worldwide strife.

You have to be careful
what you hear or see.
In Afghanistan I saw

the man and the woman
who were caught in adultery
buried up to their heads.

Their children were brought
and told to throw stones.
I can still see the heads

twisting on the ground.
The poor devil in Papillon
with his head in the guillotine . . .

but Goya’s half-buried dog
looking up at the sky
I think was the worst of all.

"This is the Jamaican-born Simpson's 18th collection; its dry trimeters and tragic resignations should certainly please the faithful fans... Yet the new poems, as much as any in his oeuvre, leave room for unexpected happiness...Simpson believes in endurance and the rewards of the ordinary. He can, at his best, make his readers believe in those things too."

                                                                --Publishers Weekly

Louis Simpson’s last book, The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001, (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2003) was finalist for the National Book Award and the Griffin Poetry Prize. His other honors include the Prix de Rome, Guggenheim Foundation fellowships, and the Columbia Medal for Excellence.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This is the Jamaica-born Simpson's 18th collection; its dry trimeters and tragic resignations should certainly please the faithful fans who have followed Simpson through six decades of acerbic prose and verse about existential resignation and middle-class malaise. Headline news, schadenfreude and the trials of old age are for Simpson just examples of the limits and pains endemic to all human life: in one poem Simpson says "that the things we care about/ are suddenly disappearing/ and that they always were." Yet the new poems, as much as any in his oeuvre, leave room for unexpected happiness: a brisk lyric celebrates the unconventional marriage of W.B. and Georgie Yeats. She took dictation from spirits, he wrote about ungovernable desires, "And if it wasn't love/ as love is in the movies,/ they didn't seem to mind." Many of his new poems raise themselves above the bitterness his earlier work could court. And yet he remains alert to evil, too, as when he writes of notoriously grisly, nightmarish paintings: "This angel was painted by Goya/ who doesn't believe in God." Simpson believes in endurance and the rewards of the ordinary. He can, at his best, make his readers believe in those things, too. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781934414194
  • Publisher: BOA Editions, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 4/1/2009
  • Series: American Poets Continuum Series
  • Pages: 88
  • Sales rank: 1,223,113
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author


Educated at Munro College (Jamaica, West Indies) and at Columbia where he received his doctorate, Louis Simpson has taught at various universities. The author of seventeen books of poetry, he has received the Rome Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Hudson Review Fellowship, Guggenheim Foundation fellowships, and the Pulitzer Prize.
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