Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Charles D. Simic  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Non-Fiction Poetry

Born: 1938 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Sites:


Illinois Connection

Charlse moved to Oak Park in 1955 and attended Oak Park/River Forest High School. After graduation he worked as an office boy for the Chicago Sun Times while attending college.

Biographical and Professional Information

In 2007 Charles Simac was named the 15th Poet Laureate of the United States by the Library of Congress. He writes on such diverse topics as jazz, art, and philosophy. He exerts considerable influence not only as poet, but as translator, essayist and philosopher, opining on the current state of contemporary American poetry. He held the position of poetry editor of The Paris Review. He is now a retired professor from the University of New Hampshire.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

The World Doesn't End
ISBN: 0156983508

Mariner Books. 1989

In this collection, winner of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize, Charles Simic puns, pulls pranks. He can be jazzy and streetwise. Or cloak himself in antiquity. Simic has new eyes, and in these wonderful poems and poems-in-prose he lets the reader see through them.

Jackstraws: Poems
ISBN: 0156010984

Mariner Books. 2000

In this new collection of sixty-two poems Charles Simic paints exquisite and shattering word pictures that lend meaning to a chaotic world populated by insects, bridal veils, pallbearers, TV sets, parrots, and a finely detailed dragonfly. Suffused with hope yet unafraid to mock his own credulity, Simic's searing metaphors unite the solemn with the absurd. His raindrops listen to each other fall and collect memories

his wildflowers are drunk with kissing the red-hot breezes

and his God is a Mr. Know-it-all, a wheeler-dealer, a wire-puller. In this latest lyrical gathering, Simic continues to startle his fans with the powerful and surprising images that are his trademark-slangy images of the ethereal, fantastic visions of the everyday, foreign scenes of the all-American-and moments full of humor and full of heartache.

A Fly in the Soup: Memoirs (Poets On Poetry)
ISBN: 0472089099

University of Michigan Press. 2003

A Fly in the Soup is a book of memoirs. Charles Simic was born in 1938 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and spent his childhood in a city bombed by the Nazis in 1941 and then by the Allies in 1944. He was jailed with his mother after the war for trying to flee what was by then a communist country. He managed to emigrate in 1953, first to Paris and then a year later to the United States. He lived in New York, completed his high school education in Chicago and began writing in English and publishing his first poems in 1959 when he was twenty-one years old.
The book collects pieces written on such diverse subjects as memory, history, the bombing of cities, cuisine, philosophy, life in the army, movies, and growing up in wartime. Arranged chronologically, they make an unusual memoir of exile and refugee life, a collage of stories, anecdotes, meditations and poetic fragments from one of the most barbaric periods of the last century. This is a story of a young man whose travel agents were Hitler and Stalin--the autobiography of the early years of one of the most respected contemporary American poets.
Charles Simic has published more than sixty books in the United States and abroad for which he has received a number of prestigious literary awards including the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and the MacArthur Fellowship.

The Voice at 3:00 A.M.: Selected Late and New Poems
ISBN: 015603073X

Mariner Books. 2006

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.

My Noiseless Entourage: Poems
ISBN: 0151012148

Harcourt. 2005

This new collection of poems from Charles Simic demonstrates once again his wit, moral acuity, and brilliant use of imagery. His settings are a farmhouse porch, a used-clothing store, empty station platforms

his subjects love, futility, and the sense of an individual life lived among a crowd of literal and imaginary presences.
Both sharp and sympathetic, the poems of this collection confirm Simic's place as one of the most important and appealing poets of our time.

To Dreams

I'm still living at all the old addresses,
Wearing dark glasses even indoors,
On the hush-hush sharing my bed
With phantoms, visiting in the kitchen

After midnight to check the faucet.
I'm late for school, and when I get there
No one seems to recognize me.
I sit disowned, sequestered and withdrawn.

These small shops open only at night
Where I make my unobtrusive purchases,
These back-door movie houses in seedy neighborhoods
Still showing grainy films of my life,

The hero always full of extravagant hope
Losing it all in the end?-whatever it was-
Then walking out into the cold, disbelieving light
Waiting close-lipped at the exit.

Sixty Poems
ISBN: 0156035642

Mariner Books. 2008

Here are sixty of Charles Simic's best known poems,

collected to celebrate

his appointment as the

fifteenth

Poet Laureate of the United States.

That Little Something
ISBN: 0156035391

Mariner Books. 2009

That Little Something is the superb eighteenth collection from one of America’s most vital and honored poets. Over the course of his singular career, Charles Simic has won nearly every accolade, including the Pulitzer Prize, and he served as the poet laureate of the United States from 2007 to 2008.His wry humor and darkly illuminating vision are on full display here as he moves close to the dark ironies of history and human experience. Simic understands the strange interplay between the ordinary and the odd, between reality and imagination. That Little Something is a stunning collection from "not only one of the most prolific poets but also one of the most distinctive, accessible, and enjoyable" (New York Times Book Review).

The Monster Loves His Labyrinth
ISBN: 1931337403

Ausable Press. 2008

“Nabokovian in his caustic charm and sexy intelligence, Simic perceives the mythic in the mundane and pinpoints the perpetual suffering that infuses human life with both agony and bliss. . . . And he is the master of juxtaposition, lining up the unlikeliest of pairings and contrasts as he explores the nexuses of madness and prophecy, hell and paradise, lust and death.”—Donna Seaman, Booklist

"As one reads the pithy, wise, occasionally cranky epigrams and vignettes that fill this volume, there is the definite sense that we are getting a rare glimpse into several decades worth of private journals--and, by extension are privy to the tickings of an accomplished and introspective literary mind."—Rain Taxi

Written over many years, this book is a collection of notebook entries by our current Poet Laureate.

Excerpts:

Stupidity is the secret spice historians have difficulty identifying in this soup we keep slurping.

Ars poetica: trying to make your jailers laugh.

American identity is really about having many identities simultaneously. We came to America to escape our old identities, which the multiculturalists now wish to restore to us.

Ambiguity is the world’s condition. Poetry flirts with ambiguity. As a “picture of reality” it is truer than any other. This doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to write poems no one understands.

The twelve girls in the gospel choir sang as if dogs were biting their asses.

What an outrage! This very moment gone forever!

The Horse Has Six Legs: An Anthology of Serbian Poetry
ISBN: 1555975577

Graywolf Press. 2010

THE UPDATED AND EXPANDED EDITION OF THIS VITAL ANTHOLOGY, WITH A NEW INTRODUCTION BY EDITOR AND TRANSLATOR CHARLES SIMIC

When The Horse Has Six Legs was first published in 1992, as war and hatred tore through the Balkans, this anthology of Serbian poetry became a landmark for some of the most compelling poetry in the contemporary world. "The ironies, in 1993, of giving an award to Serbian poets will be evident to many," Carolyn Kizer wrote in her judge's citation for the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award. "But the glory of great poetry is that it transcends its time and these agonized events to enter the universal realm of art."

Editor and translator Charles Simic has now updated and expanded this anthology for new readers in the twenty-first century. Simic has brought together an extraordinary range of Serbian poets, from the oral tradition of folk song to the great postwar poets, including Vasko Popa, Ivan V. Lalic, and Novica Tadic, and the new generation of poets writing now. With wild imagination, mordant humor, and vivid surrealism, Serbian poetry is rich, haunted, and intensely relevant to the world we inhabit.


Awards

-- *Pulitzer 1990, ''The World Doesn't End''