cover image New and Selected Poems 1962–2012

New and Selected Poems 1962–2012

Charles Simic. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30 (368p) ISBN 978-0-547-92828-9

Simic is one of America’s preeminent poets as well as a major figure on the world literary scene. Born in Belgrade and resident in the U.S. since his teenage years, Simic’s sensibility was shaped by his earliest war-ravaged memories and a Kafkaesque flair for dark humor and reality stretched just shy of surrealism. His poems from the 1960s and ’70s—such as the famous “Dismantling the Silence (“With a sharp whistle slit its belly open./ If there are ashes in it, close your eyes/ And blow them whichever way the wind is pointing”)—helped shape a poetic generation, while his more recent work (such as this, from “To Fate”: “I can feel you snuggle close to me at night,/ With your hot breath, your cold hands—/ And me already like an old piano/ Dangling out of a window at the end of a rope”) has won Simic almost every honor an American poet can win, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Poet Laureateship. But, until now, Simic’s body of work was split between two publishers and two separate “Selected Poems” volumes. This books brings together, for the first time, poems from Simic’s entire career; it reveals that while his style was largely formed at the beginning, Simic’s tone has loosened, become more conversational, more comical, perhaps more ironic from book to book, accommodating more nakedly autobiographical material, at times more sweetness (“Summer light,” Simic notes, “likes empty churches/ At the blue hour of dawn”), if also some repetition of images, themes, and modes. But this is an essential book. (Mar.)