A Pulitzer Prize–winning poet, essayist and translator presents a motley, intriguing collection of nonfiction pieces from the past 30 years.
Simic (New and Selected Poems: 1962-2012, 2013, etc.) has assembled some 41 pieces (all but four appeared in previous collections) that show the vast range of his interests. Arranged chronologically, with a few exceptions, the essays—no real surprise to followers of the author—deal with art, philosophy, literature and poetry. In some cases—as in the many that previously appeared in the New York Review of Books—they deal with literary and artistic figures who may be less well-known to the general reading public—e.g., poet Yehuda Amichai, Joseph Cornell and Odilon Redon. But familiar names dance through these pages, as well. Simic continually sprinkles glitter on the work of Emily Dickinson (whom he greatly admires), and he offers a piece celebrating the work of Buster Keaton. He also writes affectingly about his own life, mentioning several times his boyhood experiences in World War II of being bombed by both the Nazis and the Allies. Perhaps as a result, he repeatedly excoriates the let’s-make-war mentality and wonders why the United States continues to employ it as an early option in international relations. A few pieces do not have the traditional look of an essay. “Night Sky” (1996), for example, is a series of brief prose poems, each of which gets its own page. An amusing piece about bird cages (from 2011) features a series of short paragraphs connected only by their allusions to a bird cage. Simic’s prose style is often epigrammatic. Virtually all the essays include sentences that could well find a home in Bartlett’s—e.g., “Each one of us is a synthesis of the real and unreal,” he wrote in 2000.
Lucid, lyrical, educative and engaging virtually all areas of the brain.