The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems, 1940-2001


A major poetry collection by one of America's most widely acclaimed poets, published in his eightieth Year!

Finalist for the 2003 National Book Award, Poetry

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The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001

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A major poetry collection by one of America's most widely acclaimed poets, published in his eightieth Year!

Finalist for the 2003 National Book Award, Poetry

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
These poems -- wry, cantankerous and skillfully made -- are a testament to Simpson's considerable talent and a window on six decades of America's least marketable art form. — David Orr
Library Journal
Poet, critic, and novelist Simpson has been a literary star for nearly three generations. In this anthology he opens with 42 new poems and continues with selections from his 11 previous books, ending with There You Are. This work is filled with evocations of places like Jamaica, Manhattan, Paris, and Venice and range over time from tsarist Russia to World War II to the 1960s. Simpson's obsessive theme is the stultifying effect of middle-class suburban life, with its "cars and power mowers," a wasteland where Whitman's Open Road leads "to the used car lot" and the smug populace "doesn't read anything." Simpson also includes two very readable narrative poems, "The Runner" and "The Previous Tenant." And he goes beyond social commentary to probe "things/ as hidden as a heart" and even notes how "a butterfly/ writes dark lines on the air." The result is a collection both timely and accessible, always telling "of love and infinite wonder." Highly recommended for all poetry collections.-Daniel L. Guillory, Millikin Univ., Decatur, IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781929918393
  • Publisher: BOA Editions, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 9/1/2003
  • Series: American Poets Continuum Series
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,301,400
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (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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Read an Excerpt

The Owner of the House

New Collected Poems 1940-2001
By Louis Simpson

BOA Editions, Ltd.

Copyright © 2003 Louis Simpson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1929918399


<h3> Chapter One </h3> The Listeners My lovely soul, ah! Let us sum up. The Long Afternoon Behind the glass door stands a babushka, a grandmother doll. It unscrews. There's another inside, a size smaller, that unscrews, and so on. A pipe called a hookah with a malachite bowl ... The gramophone wheezes, scratches, and speaks: "Say It With Music." White flannels and knees intently two-stepping step out on the floor. At four there's a breeze. The bamboo trunks creak and talk in the lane. A house lizard hops from the vine to the rail ... cocks his head at me. "Remember?" he croaks. Dear brother, I do! Nero in Love G. L. B. Wiehen, W pronounced as V, was a quiet, soft-spoken man. He taught French and played the organ. We were reading Britannicus with Mister Wiehen, and came to the place where Nero tells how he saw Junie. He was filled with a "curious desire" to see her when she was conveyed in the night, secretly, to the palace ... "Sad, her eyes shining with tears, and bright Even in the glare of arms and torchlight, Just as she appeared when suddenly torn From sleep, a beauty nothing could adorn ... What do you expect? Disheveled innocence, The shadows, the flames, the cries, the silence ..." That night, waked by the moon, I walked through a long corridor to a great hall, and stood like Nero behind a pillar and gazed at Junie. I would have done anything for her. I would have been one of the Caesars people prayed to, or a great poet like Racine. But it was not to be. Junie became a vestal virgin. Enraged, I plunged headlong into a life of crime. A Letter from Brazil An old friend from schooldays wrote that he was working in Brazil, air-shipping freight. I was in a bad patch in my life and of no mind to answer letters. When I did, finally, it came back scrawled, "Address unknown." What is it like, air-shipping freight? If you're successful, I suppose you can have a fine social life. But not with "Address unknown." I visualized a dingy room in a street where drumming and yelling kept you awake. You turned on the light, and read a magazine. Opportunities in rapidly expanding ... Caracas. You strapped on your money, put your things in a suitcase, and took the first plane out. We used to walk up and down on the barbecue, discussing "If Dempsey had fought Tunney again." Or if "The Flying Scotsman" raced "The Royal Scot," which would have won? His letter came when I had my hands full, simultaneously being divorced and trying to fix up the house. And the workmen after a while just sat down and did nothing. This went on for days. I had given the contractor, like a fool, three thousand dollars in advance. I liked the man ... we had intelligent conversations. He used the money to pay his debts, and the workmen weren't paid, and they packed up their tools, leaving me with a house that looked like an egg with the shell smashed. I had to borrow from the bank. This time I hired a contractor who was with an old established firm. He came, he looked at the mess, and said nothing, just shook his head gently, from side to side, called in a crew, and finished the job. * * * At the beginning of vacations those of us who lived in Kingston would share a car going home. You drove over the mountains to Mandeville, then over the hills, and out on the Spanish Town road, doing sixty. There's the clock at Halfway Tree. And the town, where you drop off, one by one, promising to get in touch. But this isn't true. The friends you see during the vacation are different from your friends at school. The first day at home you go for a ride on your bicycle in the lanes. Then for a swim, the palms dipping, the harbor glittering, with lines of foam. It comes back to me now with the sound of saws and hammers. Some beams beneath our house have been damaged and have to be replaced. An Old Building on Hudson Street It was an old building on Hudson Street, with a loft. The elevator was just a platform wide open on all sides. I saw the cables and walls going by. The operator glanced at me and smiled. It came to a stop in front of an open window. I could have stepped right out into space! And this wasn't the only open window. There were others. Then the interview ... The man asked if I knew Spanish. "Si," I said, and he nodded. The one I would be replacing was a shlemiel. Could I type? With two fingers. Again he nodded. I had the job! On the day I was to start I kept putting it off ... then sent a telegram saying I could not come. That I was ill. I kept reliving the scene. First, the open window ... Then he and I were talking. The one I would be replacing was sweeping the floor, coming closer, trying to hear. The Appointment Genaro was standing halfway down the car. He turned his head slowly, the side of his head with the hole, oozing blood. "Thou canst not say I did it," I whispered. The man sitting next to me gave me a look and rustled his News nervously. At 14th Street he got off with a backward glance. Genaro must have got off too. He was nowhere to be seen. There were three ahead of me. Sports Month had an article, "What fight would you have liked to see?" Peter Jackson and Jim Corbett, though you probably never heard of it, I said to the sports writer. Dark, dark, they all go into the dark, the captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters, even the Silver Star. I'd rather be a peasant, said Achilles, on a farm, feeding pigs, than this damned plain, in a fog. My number was being called. I put the magazine down. "Can't you hear?" the man at the desk said irritably, drest in a little brief authority. "You coulda missed your appointment." So I went in. The doctor was looking at a sheet of paper. He glanced up and looked down again. The doctor had gray hair, glasses with black frames, and hair growing out of his nose. They like to keep you waiting. It's a test. Still, I wasn't prepared when Nosehair said, "Why were you talking to yourself in the waiting room?" I saw a shadow sliding around the ropes to get at me. The referee moved it back, and then went over and picked up the count. "One!" The fog was clearing. I rose to a knee, and at "nine" to my feet. "Was I?" I said. "My lips may have moved a little. I was reading a magazine." The doctor said, "All this about Jesus, are you still thinking about it?" "No," I said. "I was sick." I got on at Chambers Street. At Times Square I looked and saw Genaro. Sitting and pretending to read the advertisements. I don't give a damn, I told him. You can all go to hell. An Orchid I must have been asleep when she got out of my bed, unpinned the orchid from her dress, and placed it in one of my books. A purple skeleton staining through the pages of the book ... a first edition! I took her to the ballet, and she loved it! But when I bought tickets to Nureyev, the best seats in the house, she stood me up. She was sorry-she forgot. So she wasn't devoted to the performing arts. * * * It was Easter Sunday. She was getting out of a taxi in a hat that made people stare. She entered, took off her shoes, dress, stockings, everything, until there was nothing left but her in her Easter hat. "Two lumps," she said, "or three?" The orchid is still there, that is, the fragments are, paper-thin and sere ... the color I remember, outline of the petals that seemed so perfect then, fading through the pages. The Listeners I walked down the street to the harbor, by gardens with tattered leaves and weeds, and through an open gate. The red roof of the house had lost its tiles in patches, and the windows had no glass. A woman stood in a window looking down. "I used to live here," I shouted. "Is it all right if I just look around?" A man with dreadlocks sat on his heels, doing something to a pot. A child stood by him. I walked down to the shore. A man came towards me. His name was Rohan Moore. Was I the owner, he asked. No, I said, and heard the appreciative murmur of those who were listening to my life as to a play. Rohan Moore led the way into the house. It was dark. The wall was unpainted, the railing rough to the hand. A family lived in the room ... it seemed, in every corner, and still there was a space where a bed once stood, by the wall, with a table, glass and spoon. My father, looking small, spoke again the last few words. People were gathering from every part of the house, a dozen where four used to be. They stood and stared silently. I shook the hand of my guide, now my friend. And another's. "You can come and live here, if you want," Rohan said. There were sounds of laughter, chairs pushed back, and voices in the distance, going away. The Willies I asked Johan why he left home and came to America. How sad it can be in winter listening to the wind ... No wonder that in the dawn in the mist, one by one figures appear among the trees, making their way to the sea. This is the day when the pack-boat leaves. Better a voyage with storm and ice than to sit in a creaking house with a dog and old man for company. Better a strange, hostile land, people who do not speak your tongue, than to listen in winter to the wind, and look at snow on the trees. At night when you go outside to chop wood, you see the Willies, those dead girls, giggling and running. It's no dance they mean when they crook a finger. "You have never been to Hudik," he said. "If you had, you'd understand. If you heard the wind against the house, and the voices: 'Come out, we are so lonely!'" It's no life they have in mind for you in a house with wife and child, but wedding with the wind and snow. (Continues...) </td></tr></table>
<blockquote><hr> Excerpted from The Owner of the House by Louis Simpson Copyright © 2003 by Louis Simpson
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

The Long Afternoon 19
Nero in Love 20
A Letter from Brazil 21
An Old Building on Hudson Street 24
The Appointment 26
An Orchid 29
The Listeners 31
The Willies 33
Inspiration 37
A Wandering Life 39
The Blue Coast 40
Lilies of the Field 43
All Sorts of Things 45
The Floor Lamp 46
"He's asleep" 47
In Country Houses 49
Country Doctor 51
The Fence 52
At Journey's End 53
Foursome 55
Wash, Dry, and Fold 56
Any Time Now 57
Sanctuary Road 59
Kaimana Beach 61
Peter's Dream 65
A Walk with Goethe 67
A Walk with Basho 68
Confessions of a Professor of English 69
A Farewell to His Muse 72
Footnotes to Fodor's Spain 74
Homeless Men 78
In the Alpha Cradle 80
Reading the Times 82
The Wow! Factor 83
Driving 84
A Shearling Coat 85
Graduation 86
Variations on a Theme by Shostakovich 87
At the Church Door 91
The Children's Choir 92
Grand Forks 93
The Owner of the House 95
Arm in Arm 99
Lazarus Convalescent 100
Summer Storm 101
A Witty War 102
Carentan O Carentan 103
Song: "Rough Winds Do Shake the Darling Buds of May" 105
As Birds Are Fitted to the Boughs 109
A Woman Too Well Remembered 110
The Man Who Married Magdalene 111
Memories of a Lost War 112
The Heroes 113
The Battle 114
The Ash and the Oak 115
West 116
Early in the Morning 117
I Dreamed that in a City Dark as Paris 121
A Dream of Governors 122
To the Western World 124
Hot Night on Water Street 125
The Boarder 126
Orpheus in America 127
Music in Venice 129
Cote d'Azur 131
The Runner 133
The Bird 162
The Silent Generation 167
The Lover's Ghost 168
The Goodnight 169
In California 173
In the Suburbs 174
The Redwoods 175
There Is 176
Summer Morning 178
Birch 179
The Morning Light 180
The Cradle Trap 181
A Story About Chicken Soup 182
The Troika 184
Frogs 186
My Father in the Night Commanding No 187
American Poetry 189
The Inner Part 190
On the Lawn at the Villa 191
The Riders Held Back 192
Wind, Clouds, and the Delicate Curve of the World 194
Walt Whitman at Bear Mountain 195
Stumpfoot on 42nd Street 199
After Midnight 201
Dvonya 205
A Son of the Romanovs 206
Meyer 208
The Country House 210
A Night in Odessa 212
Isidor 214
Indian Country 215
The Climate of Paradise 218
American Dreams 219
The Photographer 220
Vandergast and the Girl 221
On a Disappearance of the Moon 224
Port Jefferson 225
A Friend of the Family 226
The Foggy Lane 231
Sacred Objects 232
Trasimeno 234
The Peat-Bog Man 235
The Silent Piano 236
Venus in the Tropics 239
Dinner at the Sea-View Inn 242
The Springs at Gadara 245
The Hour of Feeling 249
The Mannequins 251
The Middleaged Man 252
Baruch 254
Searching for the Ox 257
The Street 263
Big Dream, Little Dream 264
Before the Poetry Reading 265
Working Late 271
Sway 273
American Classic 277
The Beaded Pear 278
The Ice Cube Maker 282
The Old Graveyard at Hauppauge 283
Why Do You Write About Russia? 284
Typhus 288
The Art of Storytelling 290
The Pawnshop 291
Caviar at the Funeral 292
Chocolates 293
Armidale 295
Out of Season 297
The Mexican Woman 301
Back in the States 302
Physical Universe 305
How to Live on Long Island 308
Quiet Desperation 310
The Previous Tenant 314
The Eleventh Commandment 330
Periodontics 332
Ed 337
Akhmatova's Husband 338
Reflections in a Spa 339
In a Time of Peace 340
The Unwritten Poem 342
Riverside Drive 345
Numbers and Dust 346
Another Boring Story 348
The People Next Door 350
White Oxen 353
Waiting in the Service Station 354
A Bramble Bush 355
Sea of Grass 357
The Choir Master's Evening Party 361
Suddenly 362
Al and Beth 364
There You Are 366
Viet-Cong 368
Remembering the Sixties 369
The Believer 370
The Dental Assistant 372
The Walker on Main Street 373
Stairs 375
Working Out 376
The Indian Student 377
Old Field Stories 379
August 380
Her Weekend in the Country 383
Patsy 384
Honeymoon 385
An Academic Story 387
After a Light Snowfall 393
Shoo-Fly Pie 394
Like a Glass of Tea 395
A Clearing 396
Index of Titles 401
Acknowledgments 404
About the Author 405
Colophon 408
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