cover image The Lunatic

The Lunatic

Charles Simic. Ecco, $22.99 (96p) ISBN 978-0-06-236474-6

The prolific Simic (New and Selected Poems: 1962–2012), former U.S. Poet Laureate and 1990 Pulitzer Prize–winner, graces readers with 70 grimly playful poems that confirm his position among the literary elite. The collection primarily revolves around nostalgia, aging, and unappreciated everyday wonders. Unvarnished yet profound, these poems show a boundless sensitivity underneath their impish presentation: “a ray of sunlight/ In the silence of the afternoon,/ ... found a long lost button/ Under some chair in the corner,// A teeny black one that belonged/ On the back of her black dress.” He addresses the past in his poems with judicious sentimentality and ambivalence, cautioning readers against becoming prisoners of memory: “Everything outside this moment is a lie.” While some poems dwell on the loneliness of old age (“That one remaining, barely moving leaf/ The wind couldn’t get to fall/ All winter long from a bare tree—/ That’s me!”), Simic battles this loneliness in the company of “Imagination, devil’s old helper,” who helps him breathe life into the inanimate—and greater significance into the animate—as he contemplates the ruminations of cows, admires the menace of fleas, and comments on the foreboding quality of black cats. Simic’s new collection is an outlandish and masterly mixture of morbidity and heartfelt yearning.