The Voice at 3 A.M.: Selected Late and New Poems


Charles Simic has been widely celebrated for his brilliant poetic imagery; his social, political, and moral alertness; his uncanny ability to make the ordinary extraordinary; and not least, the sardonic humor all his own. Gathering much of his material from the seemingly mundane minutiae of contemporary American culture, Simic matches meditations on spiritual concerns and the weight of history with a nimble wit, shifting effortlessly to moments of clear vision and intense poetic...

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The Voice at 3:00 A.M.: Selected Late and New Poems

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Charles Simic has been widely celebrated for his brilliant poetic imagery; his social, political, and moral alertness; his uncanny ability to make the ordinary extraordinary; and not least, the sardonic humor all his own. Gathering much of his material from the seemingly mundane minutiae of contemporary American culture, Simic matches meditations on spiritual concerns and the weight of history with a nimble wit, shifting effortlessly to moments of clear vision and intense poetic revelation.

Chosen as one of the New York Library's 25 Books to Remember for 2003, The Voice at 3:00 A. M. was also nominated for a National Book Award. The recipient of many prizes, Simic most recently received Canada's Griffin Prize. The poems in this collection—spanning two decades of his work—present a rich and varied survey of a remarkable lyrical journey.

In the Street
Beauty, dark goddess,
We met and parted
As though we parted not.
Like two stopped watches
In a dusty store window,
One golden morning of time.

Finalist for the 2003 National Book Award, Poetry

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Charles Simic's writing comes dancing out on the balls of its feet, colloquially fit as a fiddle, a sparring partner for the world."—Seamus Heaney

"Few poets have been as influential—or as inimitable—as Charles Simic."—The New York Times Book Review

The New York Times
This poet's repetitiveness is a complicated matter, because it's intimately related to the themes around which his poetry revolves. Simic can't quite believe in anything, and he can't quite not believe in anything; as a result, his irony and his romanticism can grind against each other in a tortured stasis.— David Orr
Publishers Weekly
With his 1989 collection The World Doesn't End a Pulitzer winner, and 1996's Walking the Black Cat an NBA finalist, Simic has achieved major recognition for his wryly acerbic meditations and send-ups; this selection from his last eight books (excluding the prose poems of The World Doesn't End), matched with 19 new poems, should pave the way for more. On re-reading work that is approaching its 20th year in print, readers will find that Simic's signature quatrains and other free verse stanzas retain their forceful mix of joy, wit and melancholy: "How do you like that?/ I said to no one./ How do you like that?/ I said it again today upon walking." The new poems, most no more than a page long, include the neo-Yeatsian foreboding of "Grayheaded School Children" ("Their dead fathers shuffle past them/ On their way to the kitchen"); a creepy, Raymond Carver-esque "Empty Barbershop" ("The invisible barber's greasy fingers/ Making your hair stand straight up"); and, near the end, "The Hearse": "Pulled by a teenage Jesus already carrying his cross/ Pulled by your first love/ Pulled by every dog you ever had/ Pulled by the fly whose legs you plucked." The table of contents reveals the book's chronological organization, and the books from which the poems are taken. But refreshingly, there are no section breaks within the text, allowing readers to follow the unbroken arc of this poet's skeptical, humane meditations without interruption. It's an opportunity that will be exploited even by fans who own multiple Simic collections. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Always the poetic master, the Simic we meet in these poems (originally published in books from 1986 to the present) is no longer one who would, to quote one of his very early poems, "Go inside a stone"-and presumably shut the rest of the world out. He is older, wiser, more sedate. As tensions have risen in the former Yugoslavia, where he was born, and the world at large, his work has taken on a political urgency while still clutching its surrealist core. Here we find "The City," with "at least one crucified at every corner." In short, terse, sardonic poems, we meet troubled men and women, be they ghosts, the homeless, the lonely, or those who leave behind broken dolls and toy soldiers. The poet boldly states, "I believe in the soul; so far/ it hasn't made much difference." Luckily for readers, these poems do make a difference, rising Chagall-like above the fears and desolation of which they speak. If there were ever a poet whose work was needed in these difficult times, it would be Simic. An important purchase for all libraries.-Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156030731
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/3/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 194
  • Sales rank: 1,438,570
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.45 (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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Table of Contents

December 3
Early Evening Algebra 4
Toward Nightfall 5
William and Cynthia 8
At the Night Court 9
First Frost 10
For the Sake of Amelia 11
October Arriving 13
Against Whatever It Is That's Encroaching 14
Promises of Leniency and Forgiveness 15
The Little Pins of Memory 19
St. Thomas Aquinas 20
A Letter 20
Factory 23
Shelley 24
The Betrothal 27
The Devils 28
Evening Talk 30
The White Room 31
Frightening Toys 33
The Big War 34
Death, the Philosopher 35
At the Corner 36
A Word 37
The Pieces of the Clock Lie Scattered 38
The Immortal 39
The Gods 41
Two Dogs 42
Cabbage 43
Paradise 44
In the Library 45
The Scarecrow 46
Windy Evening 47
Evening Chess 51
The City 52
Penal Architecture 53
The Prodigal 54
Hotel Insomnia 55
The Tiger 56
Clouds Gathering 58
Folk Songs 59
A Book Full of Pictures 60
Evening Walk 61
Hotel Starry Sky 62
To Think Clearly 63
The Chair 64
Lost Glove 65
Romantic Sonnet 66
Beauty 67
My Quarrel with the Infinite 68
The Old World 69
Country Fair 70
Sinister Company 73
Dream Avenue 74
Paradise Motel 75
The Clocks of the Dead 76
Explaining a Few Things 77
Romantic Landscape 78
Leaves 79
Transport 80
Crazy About Her Shrimp 81
Reading History 82
Empires 84
The Tower 85
Shaving 86
Mystics 87
Via del Tritone 88
The Secret 89
Mirrors at 4 A.M. 93
Relaxing in a Madhouse 94
Late Call 95
Emily's Theme 96
Cameo Appearance 97
What the Gypsies Told My Grandmother When She Was Still a Young Girl 98
Charm School 99
October Light 100
Ghosts 101
At the Cookout 103
Club Midnight 105
Blood Orange 106
Pastoral Harpsichord 107
The Friends of Heraclitus 108
The Voice at 3:00 A.M. 113
Speck-Sized Screaming Head 114
The Soul Has Many Brides 115
El libro de la sexualidad 116
Mummy's Curse 117
Prison Guards Silhouetted Against the Sky 118
School for Visionaries 119
Midsummer Feast 120
Obscurely Occupied 122
On the Meadow 122
Talking to the Ceiling 123
De Occulta Philosophia 131
Mystic Life 133
Ambiguity's Wedding 137
Head of a Doll 138
Past-Lives Therapy 141
Unmade Beds 142
Street of Jewelers 143
The One to Worry About 144
Cherry Blossom Time 145
Sunday Papers 146
And Then I Think 147
The Altar 148
My Father Attributed Immortality to Waiters 149
Views From a Train 150
Night Picnic 151
Car Graveyard 152
Wooden Church 153
The Lives of the Alchemists 154
Nearest Nameless 157
Empty Barbershop 158
In the Street 159
Grayheaded Schoolchildren 160
Serving Time 161
Postcard from S. 162
Little Night Music 163
Driving These Roads 164
The Museum Opens at Midnight 165
Party Fiend 167
The Prompter 168
Autumn Sky 169
Something Large Is in the Woods 170
To the One Tunneling 171
Separate Truths 172
The Secret Doctrine 173
The Hearse 174
Cafe Don Quixote 176
Late September 177
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