cover image That Little Something

That Little Something

Charles Simic, . . Harcourt, $23 (73pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101359-3

In his 18th collection, Poet Laureate Simic’s neat stanzas continue to deliver odd moments and unexplained memories, by turns surreal, horrifying, funny, sad, and spoken with this Pulitzer Prize winner’s trademark friendly bemusement. The startling solemnity of a “Metaphysics Anonymous” meeting for addicts of “truth beyond appearances” in one poem meets, in another, a list of topics for a “late-night chat,” including 'How to guess time of night by listening to one’s own heartbeat.” The second of the book’s four sections takes on a decidedly political tone, as in “Dance of the Macabre Mice,” in which “the president smiles to himself; he loves war.” Similarly, “Those Who Clean After” imagines what’s “being done in our name” while the speaker listens to “the sounds of summer night.” The final section groups short poems that Simic (My Noiseless Entourage ) calls “Eternities”—each offers a preserved moment’s thought or image: “Sewing room, linty daylight.” While fans will find no stylistic surprises here, there is still the agreeable pathos in Simic’s work, as in “To the Reader,” which ends, “Bang your head / On your side of the wall / And keep me company.” (Apr.)