Where it says snow read teeth-marks of a virgin
August 2, 2007 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Green Buddhas
On the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
And spit out the teeth.

Surrealist poet Charles Simic was named the Poet Laureate of the US this week. He also won the Wallace Stevens Award for "outstanding and proven mastery" of the art of poetry. [more inside]
posted by jessamyn (90 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
about the poet laureate, older interview with Simic

Simic reading his own poetry: In The Library, Cameo Appearance, The Clocks of the Dead, Fork.

Some other great Simic poems: White, The White Room, The Oldest Child, Errata.

Much more Simic from the Library of Congress.
posted by jessamyn at 6:52 PM on August 2, 2007


That poem is entitled "Watermelon". Either "surrealist" has a technical meaning or it is unrepresentative of his work or it doesn't describe him. (Also, I like it.)
posted by DU at 7:04 PM on August 2, 2007


MuseFilter
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:07 PM on August 2, 2007


Born and raised in Yugoslavia?! What is he, some sort of pinko? Couldn't we get on of them Cowboy-Poets to be Poet Laureate of the US of A? See, this is what's wrong with America today.
posted by sourwookie at 7:10 PM on August 2, 2007


I think he's surreal if you think Robert Frost and Walt Whitman define poetry; I thought it was an odd adjective for the NY Times to pick as well. Compared to real surrealists he's very sense-making and he has some of the Frostlike pastoral in his work as well. Listening to him read his work is interesting, to me, because he's Yugoslavian. When you see his photos it's easy to think "oh another tweedy New England bred Iowa Writer's Workshop grad" but listening to him gives another impression altogether.
posted by jessamyn at 7:12 PM on August 2, 2007


a Jesus lookalike
Who won a pie-eating contest in Texas


he's a national treasure (Simic, not the pie-eating Jesus): wonderful choice. just this morning I had read a couple of poems from Jackstraws, I re-read Simic all the time. and every time I like him more. he's one of the greats in an age that is stingy with such poets. thanks for the post.
posted by matteo at 7:12 PM on August 2, 2007


Born and raised in Yugoslavia?!

he came to the US when he was a teenager. just don't tell Lou Dobbs -- he's just another foreigner who stole an American job.
posted by matteo at 7:16 PM on August 2, 2007


I wish the US Poet Laureate job wasn't just a 1 year stint. It should be more like ten years--enough so that the the poet can come closer to fulfilling the position's goal of becoming well-known enough to bring poetry into the popular culture.

These one-year poet laureates are like having an Olympics every even numbered year: a diminished sense of occasion accompanies the opening ceremony.
posted by washburn at 7:18 PM on August 2, 2007


"Proven mastery" would be a bit of an overstatement even for Homer.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:38 PM on August 2, 2007


Especially for Homer, I'd say.
posted by polytropos at 7:42 PM on August 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Why do we have a "poet laureate of the US"?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:49 PM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ha, I was wondering what was up with his almost nonexistent accent. Isn't Andrei Codrescu from around his neighborhood? (Another great writer.)

In any case, congrats to Charles and thanks for posting this.
posted by snsranch at 7:51 PM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]



"...the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry."

What a great job. Best to Laureate Simic in his endeavor.
posted by carsonb at 7:54 PM on August 2, 2007


It's kind of mind boggling that Simic got this honor, in a good way.
posted by edgeways at 7:54 PM on August 2, 2007


Codrescu is Romanian, I believe the Transylvania, area.
posted by edgeways at 7:56 PM on August 2, 2007


Why do we have a "poet laureate of the US"?

Why not?
posted by cortex at 8:00 PM on August 2, 2007


damn extra commas, grrr. and if you have to ask why the US has a poet laureate not sure any amount of explaining is going to change your mind.
posted by edgeways at 8:10 PM on August 2, 2007


Couldn't we get on(e) of them Cowboy-Poets to be Poet Laureate of the US of A?

Them's poet lariats.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:21 PM on August 2, 2007 [8 favorites]


Compared to real surrealists he's very sense-making and he has some of the Frostlike pastoral in his work as well.

While I don't think that Simic's singlemindedly committed to the surrealist project, I do believe that a lot of his work scans as legitimately surreal. Take this piece (one of my favorites) from The World Doesn't End:

The city had fallen. We came to the window of a house drawn by a madman. The setting sun shone on a few abandoned machines of futility. "I remember," someone said, "how in ancient times one could turn a wolf into a human and then lecture it to one's heart's content."

(Dear muckin' lord, I love Charles Simic.)
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 8:22 PM on August 2, 2007


Why do we have a "poet laureate of the US"?

Because even the most dedicated carpet bomber needs a little time off.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:36 PM on August 2, 2007 [4 favorites]


Why do we have a "poet laureate of the US"?

You know, I was just going to post "because you are an enormous cunt." And then I decided not to, but devil take the hindmost...
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:41 PM on August 2, 2007 [4 favorites]


He's a fine, fine poet.
I don't like his work.
His work is as good as the work of any poet working today.
I just can't engage with it.
He is as an imigrant and an American, a brilliant choice for Poet Laureate, and I'm glad he has finally been chosen, it's well deserved.
It's been a long time coming, even though I think his work is sometimes overly intellectual.
He's a lacky of the academia.
He ain't no Joseph Brodsky, but he ain't no slouch. Not at all.

This doesn't mean the presdnit has to read his work, does it? Cause I would think life is confusing enough for him...
posted by From Bklyn at 8:42 PM on August 2, 2007


The city had fallen. We came to the window of a house drawn by a madman. The setting sun shone on a few abandoned machines of futility. "I remember," someone said, "how in ancient times one could turn a wolf into a human and then lecture it to one's heart's content."

I don't see this as surrealist either. I just like it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:47 PM on August 2, 2007


"The city had fallen. We came to the window of a house drawn by a madman. The setting sun shone on a few abandoned machines of futility. "I remember," someone said, "how in ancient times one could turn a wolf into a human and then lecture it to one's heart's content."

holy crap! that's awful! imho

Why couldn't we get somebody like this:

Flocks of birds fell like paper
into the wells
And when I lifted the blue wings
I saw a growing grave
-Mahmoud Darwish
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:50 PM on August 2, 2007 [3 favorites]


Steven C. Den Beste: Why do we have a "poet laureate of the US"?

Because we have Hey Paula and Deal or No Deal and The 1/2 Hour News Hour and My Super Sweet 16 and a dozen "ugly, dumb, blue collar guy has a smart, hot wife" sitcoms running at any given moment. Lolinlaws amirite?

Because we have Who's Your Caddy and License to Wed and Bratz: The Movie and Norbit and an entire genre classification for torture porn.

Because we have a president who plays his ignorance as "folksiness" and wears it as a badge of pride. Because every emerging musical trend is immediately reverse-engineered into a formula for optimum market potential. Because we have a Creation Museum.

Because "academic elite" has become an insult. Because even the people who recognize and criticize the dumb clichés all around them frequently fall into the trap of dumb clichéd hipsterism.

If you're asking why we have a poet laureate you're asking the wrong questions about our culture.

[NOT MAINSTREAMIST]
posted by Riki tiki at 9:05 PM on August 2, 2007 [29 favorites]


[comment removed. i swear to christ if you people turn this nice post into a SCDB derail I will break this website so badly that mathowie himself could never fix it. chill]
posted by jessamyn at 9:05 PM on August 2, 2007 [8 favorites]


Right on! I'm surprised and pleased.
posted by kosem at 9:07 PM on August 2, 2007


On belated preview, by both the selection of Simic, and by, um, the above.
posted by kosem at 9:08 PM on August 2, 2007


Why do we have a "poet laureate of the US"?

Because we have Hey Paula and Deal or No Deal and The 1/2 Hour News Hour and My Super Sweet 16 and a dozen "ugly, dumb, blue collar guy has a smart, hot wife" sitcoms running at any given moment.


But those things aren't paid for by tax money.

I don't have any problem with this guy doing the things he does. But why is he getting a stipend from the government for doing poetry?

Why can't we have a "poet laureate who isn't getting federal tax dollars"?

[I don't suppose anyone can seriously answer this without resorting to obscenity and profanity, can they?]
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:15 PM on August 2, 2007


Because funding the arts is a good idea. You done trying to stir shit in a poetry post of all places?
posted by cortex at 9:20 PM on August 2, 2007


SCDB, there are many arts-related positions that are paid for by government money. The Poet Laureate gets 35K. Here is a good document explaining which branches of government employ the most liberal arts majors. You may notice that many of those positions aren't what you'd consider traditional government jobs, and they're paid for with tax money. The Department of Defense employs 4,000 arts and design majors alone.

If you want to continue getting people to argue with you about this, please take it to MetaTalk.
posted by jessamyn at 9:24 PM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


But why is he getting a stipend from the government for doing poetry?... Why can't we have a "poet laureate who isn't getting federal tax dollars"?

As a matter of cultural pride, we want to be seen by the world as embracing certain intellectual and artistic endeavors. The stipend isn't for "doing poetry," it's for being our ambassador of poetry. There are ceremonial duties and PR assignments and speaking engagements. Dollar for dollar, we're probably getting more bang for our buck out of this man than for most Congressmen. Oh crap, I said "Congressmen." So much for avoiding the obscenity!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:26 PM on August 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Steven: a large part of that post was making it clear that the "high arts" in the free market are dwarfed by commercially-molded crap. This one guy's salary so that the U.S. looks less like 300 million Adam Sandlers and Lindsay Lohans is money well spent.
posted by Riki tiki at 9:28 PM on August 2, 2007


Oops! Sorry, jessamyn. Should've previewed.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:28 PM on August 2, 2007


The sky was full of racing clouds and tall buildings,

Whirling and whirling silently.



In that whole city you could hear a pin drop.

Believe me.

I thought I heard a pin drop and I went looking for it.

Back on track. I hadn't heard of the fellow before today, so thank you Jess for posting this, as much as I acknowledge its importance I tend to shy away from a lot of poetry buy I really like his stuff quite a bit.

Which makes this a day in which MeFi has broadened my day by introducing me to two new artists I've taken an immediate shine to.
posted by edgeways at 9:40 PM on August 2, 2007


grr having typing/brain misfirings tonight, must be too much thesis writing
posted by edgeways at 9:41 PM on August 2, 2007


Courtship aside, I'd just like to say that I like Simic a bunch and that it's nice to see some corner of American bureaucracy still admit that we are an immigrant country made better by the influx of new Americans and that we can drop one eighty billionth of our budget on the perverted arts.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:50 PM on August 2, 2007


Why do we have a "poet laureate of the US"?

Oddly enough, because a majority of our elected representatives passed a law, which was then signed. By President Reagan.
posted by dhartung at 10:12 PM on August 2, 2007


SCDB's never going to get it, because he's simply ideologically opposed to the idea that there is any public value in creative or artistic endeavors.

That's what governments are sorta made to do; create public value. Collect tax dollars so they can be spent on things that benefit the public. It's easy to argue that roads and schools and hospitals benefit the public. One can take the position that bullets and fighter jets and so forth benefit the public as well, although some would argue. One can also take the position that, well, nice things like art and poetry benefit the public as well. And throwing a little bit of money at them isn't a bad thing.

Of course, SCDB appears to be tending towards the mindset that it is always a bad thing to spend taxes on things that benefit the whole public. If you want an education for your kids, better pay for it. If you want to get treated at a hospital, you'd better have money up front. If you want poetry, pay a poet. Strangely, these people rarely venture towards people having to choose to privately fund the military...
posted by Jimbob at 10:17 PM on August 2, 2007 [9 favorites]


Jesus Hickory-smoked Christ, let me head this off right here:

Steven, the Poet Laureate of the US is paid $35,000 each year (and a $5000 travel allowance) not from our tax dollars but by an endowment made in 1936 by Archer M. Huntington, the step-son of a railroad baron. Happy now?
posted by nicwolff at 10:21 PM on August 2, 2007 [7 favorites]


Glad to see the post. Glad to see poetry being discussed. Congrats to Mr. Simic. But would it have been possible to have a Poet Laureate from someplace other than New Hampshire (again - two-in-a-row)? There are 49 other states in the Union (and wouldn't the territories be eligible? - would be neat to have a Poet Laureate named from Puerto Rico!)
posted by spock at 10:42 PM on August 2, 2007


Fan-freaking-tastic. I'm so glad that Simic is the Poet Laureate. I think "surreal" is an easy way to categorize him, since his work tends to create seemingly odd images and non sequiturs that insouciantly work towards making the normal sublime. Almost like the best magic realism, without the religion (I'm thinking more Bruno Schulz than Gabriel García Márquez, but GGM is up there as well). Or even a more human and humane Ashberry.

Unfortunately, I've also read Billy Collins described as a surrealist. I swear I cried for a month and stopped reading for two years when it was announced in 2001 that Billy Collins was the person we were holding up as the ambassador of poetry.
posted by sleepy pete at 10:42 PM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Perhaps the Republican strategy is to name Poet Laureates from New Hampshire every year, until right before the primary season and then name one from Iowa.
posted by spock at 10:44 PM on August 2, 2007


honestly. griping about tax dollars spent on the poet laureate? it's not paid for by public taxes, it's paid for by a charitable fund. jesus. and it's not even that much.

on preview, nicwolff beat me to it.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 10:48 PM on August 2, 2007


spock, I think it'd be fucking great to have a Poet Laureate who wrote exclusively in Spanish (even though I don't speak/read it). Can you imagine what certain elements in society would say? Effing great
posted by edgeways at 10:49 PM on August 2, 2007


Charles Simic
Tuesday, August 21
6:30 p.m.
FREE

Location: Bryant Park Reading Room, at 42nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.

Rain Venue: Barnes & Noble, 5th Avenue at 46th Street.

Sponsored by the Academy of American Poets and the Bryant Park Restoration Project.
posted by Skygazer at 11:00 PM on August 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


And what city would that be, Skygazer? I'm guessing it isn't Omaha.
posted by spock at 11:03 PM on August 2, 2007


Give that man a cigar.

Fraid not Spock. NYC. Full season schedule.
posted by Skygazer at 11:13 PM on August 2, 2007


Which Omaha? I'm guessing you don't mean Kentucky.

Unless otherwise specified, everything is in New York City.
posted by nicwolff at 11:14 PM on August 2, 2007


The true master of blank verse:

Oh my dog / Oh Long John /
Oh Long Johnson / Oh Don Piano /
Why I eyes ya / All the live long day.

posted by rob511 at 11:20 PM on August 2, 2007 [7 favorites]


Why can't we have a "poet laureate who isn't getting federal tax dollars"?

if it's a question of thrift, just think that Simic bills you $40K a year and KBR billed you $22.1 billion since 2001, and counting (more than $3 billion of which are undocumented). a single cargo-loaded 747 flying once from the US to Baghdad costs you $1.3 million.

just to give you an idea.

if instead is a question of principle, of how one spends government dollars, let's consider Alberto Gonzales and Charles Simic: one gets paid for turning America into a nation of torturers, the other to write beautiful poetry that shows everyone how, well, the US is not just about waterboarding Muslims, exploiting Mexicans, cutting megacorporations taxes, busting unions and teaching Creationism in schools.

the ancient Romans, may Jupiter bless them, smart as they were, understood the importance of a superpower's writers, of her painters, of her musician. because you cannot only be feared for the might of your military arsenal, you must also be admired for your creative accomplishments. in this sense, the importance for America of people like Charles Simic, James Levine, Philip Roth, Brian Wilson is vastly superior to, say, Condoleezza Rice's or Antonin Scalia's.

(the fact that a sizable chunk, if not a majority, of America's greatest artists is made of extreme left wingers, Jews, immigrants, atheists, drunks, and various addicts, is also a wonderful commentary on the "value-based", faith-based, Conservative community)
posted by matteo at 12:45 AM on August 3, 2007 [9 favorites]


Rob511 ftw.
posted by ZakDaddy at 1:21 AM on August 3, 2007


Without a name attached to it, I can't tell his stuff from several of the last poets laureate.
posted by RavinDave at 3:22 AM on August 3, 2007


Steady now, young lad
our man bids you die for him
Trillions for defense
and Not one cent for Simic
There is hardly a single gun
he will not thrust into the
gentle hand
of a clueless child
Dulce et docorum est
pro patria mori
posted by Avenger at 3:31 AM on August 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


I LOVE this site.
posted by jennydiski at 4:11 AM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Because we want one and can afford it.
posted by DU at 5:39 AM on August 3, 2007


Them's poet lariats.

I'm pretty sure it's Poets Laureate same as Attorneys General, Notaries Public, and Courts Martial.

...and Pinas Colada, or so I tell people when I've had a few too many.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:08 AM on August 3, 2007


I love Simic's work. Thanks for the post Jess.
posted by dobbs at 6:32 AM on August 3, 2007


Since it's Spanish, I think it would be Piñas Coladas, as adjectives are pluralized in Spanish just like their nouns.
posted by grouse at 6:36 AM on August 3, 2007


I like Simic, but I prefer Hayden Carruth.


Agenda at 74

Tap barometer, burn trash,
put out seed for birds, tap
barometer, go to market
for doughnuts and Dutch
Masters, feed cat, write
President, tap barometer,
take baby aspirin, write
congressmen, nap, watch
Bills vs. Patriots, tap
barometer, go to post
office and ask Diane if
it's cold enough for her,
go to diner and say "hi,
babe" to Mazie, go to
barber shop and read
Sports Illustrated, go
home, take a load off,
tap barometer, go to
liquor store for jug
(Gallo plonk), go
home, pee, etc., sweep
cellar stairs (be careful!),
write letter to editor,
count dimes, count quarters,
tap the fucking barometer…
posted by mds35 at 6:41 AM on August 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


Because we have Hey Paula and Deal or No Deal and The 1/2 Hour News Hour and My Super Sweet 16 and a dozen "ugly, dumb, blue collar guy has a smart, hot wife" sitcoms running at any given moment.

But those things aren't paid for by tax money.

i didn't know the fcc was paid for by private contributions to assign private bandwidth ... nor did i know that the cable lines are on private easements that private arbitrators enforce, or that private councils award contracts to cable companies instead of local governments

but you didn't know that the poet laureate position was paid for by grant money, either

but that's the way that goes isn't it? ... complain about the pennies that are given to the little guy while the dollars that are bulldozed into the gaping maw of the corporate leviathan are ignored ... and get your facts wrong about both

fact - the poet laureate is privately supported, the television industry is subsidized by the government
posted by pyramid termite at 6:48 AM on August 3, 2007 [6 favorites]


It's ridiculous that the US Poet Laureate is paid only 35k per year.
posted by washburn at 7:54 AM on August 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


the ancient Romans, may Jupiter bless them, smart as they were, understood the importance of a superpower's writers, of her painters, of her musician. because you cannot only be feared for the might of your military arsenal, you must also be admired for your creative accomplishments. in this sense, the importance for America of people like Charles Simic, James Levine, Philip Roth, Brian Wilson is vastly superior to, say, Condoleezza Rice's or Antonin Scalia's.

Though, we do have our Hollywood to export our empire's culture to our colonies across the world.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:55 AM on August 3, 2007


Which is to say, be careful what you wish for. ;)
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:56 AM on August 3, 2007


It's ridiculous that the US Poet Laureate is paid only 35k per year.

Well, his work should produce an income also.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:57 AM on August 3, 2007


you know, Carruth is actually one of my favorites too, but he may be too churlish to be poet laureate. This is my favorite poem of his, possibly.

On Being Asked To Write A Poem Against The War In Vietnam

Well I have and in fact
more than one and I'll
tell you this too

I wrote one against
Algeria that nightmare
and another against

Korea and another
against the one
I was in

and I don't remember
how many against
the three

when I was a boy
Abyssinia Spain and
Harlan County

and not one
breath was restored
to one

shattered throat
mans womans or childs
not one not

one
but death went on and on
never looking aside

except now and then
with a furtive half-smile
to make sure I was noticing.
posted by jessamyn at 8:18 AM on August 3, 2007 [15 favorites]


washburn says: I wish the US Poet Laureate job wasn't just a 1 year stint. It should be more like ten years--enough so that the the poet can come closer to fulfilling the position's goal of becoming well-known enough to bring poetry into the popular culture.

Good point.
posted by amyms at 8:24 AM on August 3, 2007


Poetry lovers may enjoy this MoFi thread that has been going on for nearly three years now. (Kinda nice sometimes to not have threads lock in 30 days).
posted by spock at 8:57 AM on August 3, 2007


Simic got the honor of being named Poet Laureate and some cold hard cash yesterday: $100,000.
posted by spock at 9:25 AM on August 3, 2007


Thanks for the post, Jessamyn.
I am happy that Simic got the nod.

My favorite Carruth poem:

REGARDING CHAINSAWS

The first chainsaw I owned years ago
Was an old yellow McCulloch that wouldn’t start.
Jas Laughlin gave it to me that was my friend.
Well, I’ve had enemies that couldn’t of done
No worse. I took it to Ward’s over to Morrisville,
And no doubt they tinkered it as best they could,
But it still wouldn’t start. One time later
I took it down to the last bolt and gasket
And put back together again, hoping
Somehow I’d do something accidental-like
That would make it go. You know the way you do.
Then I yanked on it 450 times,
As I figured afterwards, and give myself
A bursitis in the elbow that went five years
Even after Doc Barber shot it full
Of cortisone and near killed me when he hit
A nerve dead on. Old Phil wanted that saw.
Figured I was a greenhorn that didn’t know
Nothing and he could fix it. Well, I was,
You could say, green as bile and twice as ugly,
But a fair hand at tinkering. “Phil,” I said,
“You’re a neighbor, I like you, and I wouldn’t
Sell that tarnation thing to nobody, except
Vice-President Nixon.” But Phil persisted.
He always did. One time we was standing
Gabbing in his side dooryard, and he spied
That saw in the back of my pickup. He run
Quick inside, then come out and stuck a double
Sawbuck in my shirt pocket, and he grabbed
That saw and lugged it off. Next day, when I
Drove past, I seen he had it snugged down tight
With a tow-chain on the bed of his old Dodge
Powerwagon, and he was yanking on it
With both hands. Two or three days after,
I asked him, I says, “How you doing with that
McCulloch, Phil?” ‘Well,” he says, “I tooken
It down to scrap, and I buried it in three
Separate places yonder on the upper side
Of the potato piece. You can’t be too careful,”
He says, “when you’re disposing of a hex.”
The next saw I had was a godawful ancient
Homelite that I give Dry Dryden thirty bucks for,
Temperamental as a ram, too, but I liked it.
It used to remind me of Dry and how he’d
Clap that saw a couple of times with the flat
Of his double-bitted axe to make it go
And how he honed the chain with a worn-down
File stuck into an old baseball. I worked
That saw for years. Why, I used to put up
Forty-five run a year to keep my stoves
Hot all winter in them days. I couldn’t
Now, it’d kill me. Well, of course they got
These modern Swedish saws now that can take
All the worry out of it. What’s the good
Of that? Takes all the fun out, too, don’t it?
Why, I reckon. I mind when David Budbill snagged
An old sap spout buried in a chunk of maple
And it tore up his mouth so bad he couldn’t play
“Green Dolphin Street” on his trumpet like Peter Candoli
No more, and then when Toby Wolff was holding
A beech limb that Rob Bowen was bucking up
And the saw skidded crossways and nipped off
One of Toby’s fingers. That’s more like it.
Makes you know you’re living. But mostly they wan’t
Dangerous, and the only thing they broke was your
Back. Old Phil, he was a buller and a jammer
In his time, no two ways about that, but he
Never sawed himself. Phil had the sugar
All his life, and he wan’t always too careful
About his diet and the injections. He lost
All the feeling in his legs from the knees down.
One time he started up his Powerwagon
Out in the barn, and his foot slipped off the clutch,
And she jumped frontwards right through the wall
And into the manure pit. He just set there,
Swearing like you could of heard it in St.
Johnsbury, till his wife come out and said,
“Phil, what’s got into you?” “Missus,” he says,
“Ain’t nothing got into me. Can’t you see?
It’s me that’s got into this here pile of shit.”
Well, not much later they took away one of his
Legs, and six months after that they took
The other and left him setting in his old chair
With a tank of oxygen to sip at whenever
He felt himself sinking. I remember that chair.
Phil reupholstered it with an old bearskin
That must of come down from his great-great-
Grandfather. Why, I swear it had grit in it
From the Civil War and a bullet hole big
As your mouth. Phil latched the pieces together
With rawhide, cross fashion, but the stitches was
Always breaking and coming undone. About then
I quit stopping by to see Old Phil, and I
Don’t feel good about that neither. But my mother
Was having her strokes then. I figured
One person coming apart was as much
As a man can stand. Then Phil was put in the
Nursing home, and then he died. I always
Remember how he planted them pieces of spooked
McCulloch up above the potatoes. Funny,
Sometimes I used to think I’d go up there
To see if anything sprouted. You know how
A man gets took by notions once in a while.
But I never did it. I reckon it’s just as well.
posted by cows of industry at 9:35 AM on August 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


I like his essays in Metaphysician in the Dark. Fun and illuminating and diverse.
posted by Aghast. at 9:42 AM on August 3, 2007


Jessamyn, thanks for that. Both of those Carruths sort of reminded me of Frank O'hara. Does this mean that the New York School moved to Connecticut with everyone else?

On the topic of official support for poetry, I thought I'd share two quotes from a friend, who is a publisher:

"When your poets are chumming up with your presidents, neither is doing a very good job." - on Clinton and Angelou

"Every time I try to advocate government support for the arts, I end up sounding like a guy that thinks that Church and State ought to attend each other's cocktail parties."

I'm not trying to make a point with those quotes, I just immediately thought of them when the topic came up. And smiled.

(Full Disclosure: I am a washed-up has-been)
posted by rush at 10:05 AM on August 3, 2007


This comment...

Without a name attached to it, I can't tell his stuff from several of the last poets laureate.

...made me laugh, because I can only believe the person who said it hasn't actually read "several of the last poets laureate." The difference between Billy Collins and Charles Simic is so great you couldn't possibly confuse them!

Personally, I think this is great news--and I say that as someone who usually has a taste for the more narrative, Stephen Dobyns-y stuff. Simic is a poet with real substance and literary credibility--no Maya Angelou, that's for sure.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:23 AM on August 3, 2007


We need more metafilter threads where we post poems we like.
posted by bookish at 10:36 AM on August 3, 2007


I was lucky enough to take a poetry class from Simic when I went to UNH. Great teacher, great poet, but he didn't have a whole lot of patience for the sorority girls' odes to their boyfriends with "eyes as blue as the sky."

This post made my day!
posted by suki at 11:18 AM on August 3, 2007


I have never heard of this guy but I am intruiged. Odds are I'll be stopping by my library for the first time in over four years to see if they have any of his stuff.

And this is the second time SCDB has made me say, aloud, "Oh go to hell." in a church.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 11:24 AM on August 3, 2007


Simic got the honor of being named Poet Laureate and some cold hard cash yesterday

Yes, but the $100,000 cash award was separate from the laureate position. Lucky for Simic that he received it. The US Poet Laureate is still supposed to promote the language arts in the US and do some writing on his or her own while being paid the princely sum of 35k per year--not even enough to maintain a modest apartment in a metropolitan area.
posted by washburn at 11:27 AM on August 3, 2007


Yes, it is separate. That's why I emphasized the "and". It would also be evident to anyone who actually read the article the "$100,000" linked to. The Poet Laureate's paltry stipend was also covered earlier in the thread.
posted by spock at 11:45 AM on August 3, 2007


Wake me up when it's Li-Young Lee.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:00 PM on August 3, 2007


In one of these comments, a writer takes a [poke at Lou Dobbs because Simic not born in the US. In fact, Dobbs has no problem with those coming here legally and is married (surprise) to a woman born in Mexico.
posted by Postroad at 12:36 PM on August 3, 2007


Excellent post. Thanks, jessamyn.
posted by homunculus at 2:02 PM on August 3, 2007


Jessamyn, I heard this on NPR on my drive home today, and I was wondering if it would make the blue - I'm so glad you posted this!
posted by ersatzkat at 3:28 PM on August 3, 2007


Postroad, you seem to have missed the fact that SCDB already shitted up the thread--no need for any further shitting here.
posted by oats at 4:12 PM on August 3, 2007


Simic writes regularly for the New York Review of Books.

More poems by Simic.

The Lights Are On Everywhere:

The Emperor must not be told night is coming.
His armies are chasing shadows,
Arresting whippoorwills and hermit thrushes
And setting towns and villages on fire.

In the capital, they go around confiscating
Clocks and watches, burning heretics,
And painting the sunrise over the rooftops
While the people wish each other good morning.

The rooster brought in chains is crowing,
The flowers in the garden have been made to stay open,
And still dark stains appear on palace floors
Which no amount of scrubbing can wipe away.
posted by russilwvong at 5:37 PM on August 3, 2007


Nice post, thanks. I really like Watermelons. I also really like that cat's poem.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:41 PM on August 3, 2007


saulgoodman ...

Not only have I read others poets laureate -- I *KNOW* one of'em. (And at least Maya Angelou sounded damn good backed up by Ashford & Simpson). I'm not mocking anyone or begrudging their taste. Simply noting that too much modern stuff sounds homogenized. No one seems to have a "voice" that jumps off the page at you anymore.
posted by RavinDave at 6:40 PM on August 3, 2007


RavinDave: Sorry if I came across as cranky. But Simic's stuff is so different than Billy Collins' stuff, I just can't agree with you in this case--Simic is so much more lyrical than Collins, it just seems like a pretty radical departure. Still, no offense intended, and I agree, in a lot of ways, with your general point about the homogeneity of much of contemporary poetry--but Collins and Simic in particular seem so different...
posted by saulgoodman at 7:27 PM on August 3, 2007


I shall give Simic a fair shot and withhold further judgment until a read a bit more.
posted by RavinDave at 7:37 PM on August 3, 2007


Simic deserves the honor, though he can be hit and miss with me.

I once was lucky enough to have dinner with James Merrill after a lecture he gave at the New School. I am a het male but he was so wonderful and intelligent and handsome I would have given myself to him gladly. Oh man I had a serious man-crush on him.
posted by vronsky at 8:42 PM on August 3, 2007


when it began
posted by vronsky at 9:29 PM on August 4, 2007


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