Monday, May 09, 2011

Happy Birthday, Charles

Today is the birthday of America's poet laureate, Charles Simic. Born in Belgrade in 1938, he was a child of war. His family ended up in Paris in 1953, where he and his mother waited while his father moved on the New York, where they joined him after a year's time. "My travel agents were Hitler and Stalin," he has said. "Being one of the millions of displaced persons made an impression on me. In addition to my own little story of bad luck, I heard plenty of others. I'm still amazed by all the vileness and stupidity I witnessed in my life. ... If you came to New York in 1954, it was incredible. Europe was still gray; there were still ruins. New York was just dazzling."

They moved to Chicago where he learned English, and began to write poetry while still in high school. He's won the Pulitzer for his poetry, and two years ago was named the Laureate. Here's one of his poems :

Charon’s Cosmology

With only his dim lantern
To tell him where he is
And every time a mountain
Of fresh corpses to load up

Take them to the other side
Where there are plenty more
I’d say by now he must be confused
As to which side is which

I’d say it doesn’t matter
No one complains he’s got
Their pockets to go through
In one a crust of bread in another a sausage

Once in a long while a mirror
Or a book which he throws
Overboard into the dark river
Swift and cold and deep

And here are more of Simic's poems.

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