Mighty Red Pen

August 2, 2007

Resting on his laurels

Filed under: Lit review,Pop culture,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 7:45 pm

Charles Simic was named poet laureate. If you get a chance to read any of his work, do. MRP especially recommends his Pulitzer-prize winning volume, A Wedding in Hell, but there are plenty of others: Walking the Black Cat and The Book of Gods and Devils, for instance.

Simic’s poems remind me of newspaper photos: more than a snapshot, they capture a story, a moment, a person, in gritty black and white — real, sensual, and alive. For instance, this excerpt from “Via del Tritone”:

Shutters closed to cool shadowy rooms

With impossibly high ceilings,

And here and there a watery mirror

And my pale and contorted face

To greet me and startle me again and again.

“You found what you were looking for,”

I expected someone to whisper.

But there was no one, neither there

Nor in the street, which was deserted

In that monstrous heat that gives birth

To false memories and tritons.

Lest you think it’s all serious, you might also check out his book of essays, The Unemployed Fortune-Teller. The essay, “Food and Happiness,” has stayed with me years after I first read it. It starts, “Sadness and good food are incompatible.”

Heaven is a pot of chili simmering on the stove. If I were to write about the happiest days of my life, many of them would have to do with food and wine and a table full of friends.

How could you resist?

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