The Life of Images: Selected Prose

Charles Simic. Ecco, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-236471-5

This essay collection may seem somewhat redundant, since its selections can be readily found in other books (except for five previously uncollected pieces), but it leaves no doubt that former poet laureate Simic wields a powerful pen. In artful, lucid, and sometimes humorous essays, he offers commanding insights on such diverse topics as poetry’s relationship to philosophy, the ravages of war, and the unpredictable beauties of film and music. In “Buster Keaton,” he writes of the silent-movie comedian, “What makes Keaton unforgettable is the composure and dignity he maintains in the face of what amounts to a deluge of misfortune.” In “My Secret,” Simic admits that he likes to write in bed and also reflects on the pleasure of writing in the kitchen, stating that, “All that’s left for the poet to do is garnish his poems with a little parsley and serve them to poetry gourmets.” In the powerful “Charles the Obscure,” about the blues guitarist Funny Papa Smith, Simic observes, “The blues poet has been where we are all afraid to go.” Readers may regret that Simic provides no introduction to shed light on the selection process for this book. Nonetheless, his wit shines and sparkles on every page. (Apr.)