Sixty Poems

Paperback | January 1, 2008

byCharles Simic

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Here are sixty of Charles Simic's best known poems, collected to celebrate his appointment as the fifteenth Poet Laureate of the United States.

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From the Publisher

Here are sixty of Charles Simic's best known poems, collected to celebrate his appointment as the fifteenth Poet Laureate of the United States.

CHARLES SIMIC was born in Belgrade and emigrated to the United States in 1954. He is the author of many books of poetry and prose. Among other honors, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1990 and served as the Poet Laureate of the United States in 2007 - 2008.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:108 pages, 8.06 × 5.38 × 0.33 inPublished:January 1, 2008Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0156035642

ISBN - 13:9780156035644

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Extra Content

Read from the Book

From Unending Blues, 1986 toward nightfall   for Don and Jane   The weight of tragic events On everyone’s back, Just as tragedy In the proper Greek sense Was thought impossible To compose in our day.   There were scaffolds, Makeshift stages, Puny figures on them, Like small indistinct animals Caught in the headlights Crossing the road way ahead,   In the gray twilight That went on hesitating On the verge of a huge Starless autumn night. One could’ve been in The back of an open truck Hunkering because of The speed and chill.   One could’ve been walking With a sidelong glance At the many troubling shapes The bare trees made— Like those about to shriek, But finding themselves unable To utter a word now.   One could’ve been in One of these dying mill towns Inside a small dim grocery When the news broke. One would’ve drawn near the radio With the one many months pregnant Who serves there at that hour.   Was there a smell of Spilled blood in the air, Or was it that other, Much finer scent—of fear, The fear of approaching death One met on the empty street?   Monsters on movie posters, too, Prominently displayed. Then, six factory girls, Arm in arm, laughing As if they’ve been drinking. At the very least, one Could’ve been one of them:   The one with a mouth Painted bright red, Who feels out of sorts, For no reason, very pale, And so, excusing herself, Vanishes where it says: Rooms for Rent, And immediately goes to bed, Fully dressed, only   To lie with eyes open, Trembling, despite the covers. It’s just a bad chill, She keeps telling herself Not having seen the papers Which the landlord has the dog Bring from the front porch.   The old man never learned To read well, and so Reads on in that half-whisper, And in that half-light Verging on the dark, About that day’s tragedies Which supposedly are not Tragedies in the absence of Figures endowed with Classic nobility of soul. against whatever it is that’s encroaching   Best of all is to be idle, And especially on a Thursday, And to sip wine while studying the light: The way it ages, yellows, turns ashen And then hesitates forever On the threshold of the night That could be bringing the first frost.   It’s good to have a woman around just then, And two is even better. Let them whisper to each other And eye you with a smirk. Let them roll up their sleeves and unbutton their shirts a bit As this fine old twilight deserves,   And the small schoolboy Who has come home to a room almost dark And now watches wide-eyed The grown-ups raise their glasses to him, The giddy-headed, red-haired woman With eyes tightly shut, As if she were about to cry or sing.   Compilation copyright © 2007 by Charles Simic   All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.  

Table of Contents



From Unending Blues, 1986


Toward Nightfall   3


Against Whatever It Is That’s Encroaching   6



From The Book of Gods and Devils, 1990


St. Thomas Aquinas   9


Factory   11


Shelley   12


The Devils   15


The White Room   17


The Big War   19


Paradise   20


In the Library   21



From Hotel Insomnia, 1992


The Prodigal   25


Hotel Insomnia   26


The Tiger   27


A Book Full of Pictures   29


Evening Walk   30


Romantic Sonnet   31


The Old World   32


Country Fair   33



From A Wedding in Hell, 1994


Paradise Motel   37


The Clocks of the Dead   38


Leaves   39


Transport   40


Crazy About Her Shrimp   41


Reading History   42


Empires   44


Mystics   45


Via del Tritone   46


The Secret   47



From Walking the Black Cat, 1996


Mirrors at 4 a.m.   51


Cameo Appearance   52


What the Gypsies Told My Grandmother While She Was Still a Young Girl   53


Little Unwritten Book   54


Slaughterhouse Flies   55


An Address with Exclamation Points   56


Entertaining the Canary   57


Ghosts   58


At the Cookout   60


Club Midnight   62


Pastoral Harpsichord   63


Have You Met Miss Jones?   64



From Jackstraws, 1999


The Soul Has Many Brides   69


Mummy’s Curse   70


The Common Insects of North America   71


The Toy   72



From Night Picnic, 2001


Unmade Beds   79


The One to Worry About   80


Sunday Papers   81


The Altar   82


My Father Attributed Immortality to Waiters   83


The Lives of the Alchemists   84



From The Voice at 3:00 a.m., 2003


Grayheaded Schoolchildren   87


Serving Time   88


Late September   89



From My Noiseless Entourage, 2005


Self-Portrait in Bed   93


To Dreams   94


My Noiseless Entourage   95


Description of a Lost Thing   96


My Turn to Confess   97


In the Planetarium   98


Pigeons at Dawn   99

Editorial Reviews

The range of Charles Simic's imagination is evident in his stunning and unusual imagery. He handles language with the skill of a master craftsman, yet his poems are easily accessible, often meditative and surprising. He has given us a rich body of highly organized poetry with shades of darkness and flashes of ironic humor." - James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress"[Simic] draws on the dark satire of Central Europe, the sensual rhapsody of Latin America, and the fraught juxtapositions of French Surrealism, to create a style like nothing else in American literature. Yet [his] verse remains recognizably American - not just in its grainy, hard-boiled textures, straight out of 1940s film noir, but in the very confidence of its eclecticism." - Adam Kirsch, New York Sun "