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September 18, 2012 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Well-known and quintessentially American poet Louis Simpson has died at the age of 89.
posted by aught (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Iridic at 10:13 AM on September 18, 2012


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posted by Cash4Lead at 10:17 AM on September 18, 2012


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posted by mattbucher at 10:22 AM on September 18, 2012


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Knew him from my hometown . . . a genuinely lovely man, and a great poet. I have heard he was a wonderful teacher as well, but have no firsthand experience with that aspect of his life.
posted by exlotuseater at 10:40 AM on September 18, 2012


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posted by eustacescrubb at 11:27 AM on September 18, 2012


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(Got my first exposure to Simpson from Donald Hall's excellent "Contemporary American Poetry" antho when I was in high school. In the years since, I've always regarded that collection to be a kind of benchmark for who really mattered in American poetry at that particular point in time; Simpson's stuff had a huge influence on my own development as a young writer, and in fact, I won a scholarship to one university creative writing program and ultimately entered another at least partly due to a submission that included a poem about Whitman that was shamelessly derivative of Simpson's "Walt Whitman at Bear Mountain." He'll be missed. This is really a big loss for American letters.)
posted by saulgoodman at 11:37 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry to hear that; he was one of the good ones. Read "My Father in the Night Commanding No":
...

The moon is glittering above the hill.
I stand before the gateposts of the King—
   So runs the story
Of Thule, at midnight when the mice are still.

And I have been in Thule! It has come true—
The journey and the danger of the world,
   All that there is
To bear and to enjoy, endure and do.

...
I guess it's time to forgive him for choosing a piece by Joyce Carol Oates over one by my pal Mike to publish in Southern Review.
posted by languagehat at 11:41 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meant to link to this: "Walt Whitman at Bear Mountain"
posted by saulgoodman at 11:45 AM on September 18, 2012


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posted by dlugoczaj at 12:03 PM on September 18, 2012


Simpson guest-taught a session of one of my college lit classes. He was a fine teacher. I engaged him in a discussion of Kerouac and Ginsberg whom he knew at Columbia. At that time, I adored them; he didn't and was a little annoyed that even I mentioned them. RIP Louis. Tonight, I'll look at the books you were kind enough to inscribe for the boy who only appreciated you for your peers.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:30 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by Ghidorah at 8:50 PM on September 18, 2012


I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Simpson as my AP English teacher at a small private school in the late 90s. He lived nearby and only taught one or two sections, but it was such a treat.
There was the incredible moment when he told us to turn to page #65 (or whatever it was) in our poetry books, which was the beginning of his section of poems. He then walked us through one of his poems line by line, telling us what his intention had been piece by piece. Absolutely incredible.

Another story I remember poorly had to do with him living in New York, and being asked by a friend to assist with the interview of a poet. It was a name we knew, and I think it was Auden but can't remember now. Anyway, Dr. Simpson's friend needed him to control the tape recorder during the interview. They arrive at the apartment, and the poet offered them drinks. Dr. Simpson accepted, but the poet was a teetotaler and poured Louis a substantial glass of whisky. Consequently, according to Dr. Simpson, about halfway through the recording you can hear a distinct thud, which was himself falling out of his chair half-drunk.

I've been a 6-7 year lurker, and finally joined to pay my respects to my former teacher. I feel so lucky to have had a couple of semesters with him.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 8:12 AM on September 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


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