Simic’s Sixty Poems

As I mentioned after spending weeks reading psychology and philosophical works, I’m ready for some poetry. Unfortunately, most of the poetry books waiting to be read are long, or, very long, works, while I was ready for a short book of poems, one I could finish in a day or two. Luckily, I just bought a new Kindle, and when I went to my Wishlist I found the perfect book, Charles Simic’s Sixty Poems. Not only was the Kindle version cheaper than the paperback, I began reading it less than five minutes after I ordered it. Now that I’ve finished it, I don’t have to struggle to find a place for it on my bookshelf; it’s “safely” stored on Amazon’s servers, with notes and all.

I’m pretty sure I added Simic to my Wishlist after reading his poetry at Five Branch Tree, but I’ve also seen his name mentioned several times in connection with Imagist poets, one of my current favorites. After finishing the book, I’m not sure I would identify him with that group, though. He’s a very literate poet, dedicating poems to a well-known poets from all over the world. Many of his poems remind me of Mark Strand. I suspect 60 poems is too short of a selection to draw many conclusions about his poetry as a whole, but I liked many of then, finding it easy to identify with many of the situations portrayed, though thankfully I’m not as alienated as many of the people in the poems.

I certainly identified with this poem,


Never-yet-equaled, wide-screen blockbuster
That grew more and more muddled
After a spectacular opening shot.
The pace, even for the most patient
Killingly slow despite the promise
Of a show-stopping, eye-popping ending:
The sudden shriveling of the whole
To its teensy starting point, erasing all-
Including this bag of popcorn we are sharing.

Yes, an intriguing but finally irritating
Puzzle with no answer forthcoming tonight
From the large cast of stars and galaxies
In what may be called a prodigious
Expenditure of time, money and talent.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here,” I said
Just as her upraised eyes grew moist
And she confided to me, much too loudly,
“I have never seen anything so beautiful.”

having just seen The Black Swan, a movie I loved. Leslie seemed more ambivalent, and when she posted her reaction on Facebook she got more comments than she’d ever gotten before, with posters equally divided between those who hated it and those who loved it.

One of the constants in these poems is a sense of alienation, or, at least, a sense of being out of place. While this poem is subtler than many of the other poems, there’s something disconcerting about have a totally different reaction to an event than other people have, particularly when it’s someone you’re close to.