Wednesday, May 09, 2012

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 :

Against Winter

The truth is dark under your eyelids.
What are you going to do about it?
The birds are silent; there's no one to ask.
All day long you'll squint at the gray sky.
When the wind blows you'll shiver like straw.

A meek little lamb you grew your wool
Till they came after you with huge shears.
Flies hovered over open mouth,
Then they, too, flew off like the leaves,
The bare branches reached after them in vain.

Winter coming. Like the last heroic soldier
Of a defeated army, you'll stay at your post,
Head bared to the first snow flake.
Till a neighbor comes to yell at you,
You're crazier than the weather, Charlie.

And here are more of Simic's poems.

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