Charlie Simic Named Poet Laureate

There was a time when the whole battle of the lyric/elegaics vs the experimental/academics vs the neoformal/anachronistics seemed important to me, partly because as a lyric surrealist free-verser I felt that the wrong people (everyone who was writing stuff I didn't like) were getting all the attention, and partly because I was too close to the poetry melee to see how ultimately absurd and undignified it is—the cattiness, the hair-pulling, the whole eye-gouging scramble after the pitiful crumbs that are the reward of a big-time poet's "career." I'm glad I no longer feel invested enough in the whole business to worry much qabout the outcome, or to believe that any kind of meaningful outcome is even possible.

Still, every now and then, if the wind is blowing right, I can still make out the occasional rumble of the poetry wars in the far distance; a whiff of cordite, the faint boom of cannon-fire rumbling up from Madison. Another neoformalist jackass writes yet another rant against modernism or the MFA programs; someone wins a big prize based more on his/her life story than on his/her life's work. Sometimes, though, the news is good. I'm very happy to hear that Charlie Simic's been made Poet Laureate, and in the same week won a big-deal $100,000 prize. Simic is one of the best of his generation (and better than anyone in mine). I'm very pleased that his work is getting this kind of late-career recognition.

Here's one of my favorite Simic poems:

Crazy About Her Shrimp

We don't even take time
To come up for air.
We keep our mouths full and busy
Eating bread and cheese
And smooching in between.

No sooner have we made love
Than we are back in the kitchen.
While I chop the hot peppers,
She grins at me
And stirs the shrimp on the stove.

How good the wine tastes
That has run red
Out of a laughing mouth!
Down her chin
And on to her naked tits.

"I'm getting fat," she says,
Turning this way and that way
Before the mirror.
"I'm crazy about her shrimp!"
I shout to the gods above.

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