Surreal Wordsmith Simic Named Poet Laureate
Simic takes over the position from Donald Hall, who has served since 2006.
The author of 18 books of poetry, Simic’s most recent volume, “My Noiseless Entourage,” was published in 2005. A new collection, “That Little Something,” is set for a February 2008 release.
In 1990, Simic won the Pulitzer Prize for a book of prose poems, “The World Doesn’t End.” His collection “Walking the Black Cat” was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1996, and in 2005 he won the Griffin Prize for “Selected Poems: 1963-2003.” On the same day he was announced as poet laureate, Simic received the Wallace Stevens Award, a $100,000 prize given by the Academy of American Poets for “mastery in the art of poetry.”
“The range of Charles Simic’s imagination is evident in his stunning and unusual imagery,” Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in the announcement. “He handles language with the skill of a master craftsman, yet his poems are easily accessible, often meditative and surprising.”
Simic, 69, was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and moved to the United States in 1954. He is a retired professor of creative writing and literature at the University of New Hampshire, where he taught for 34 years. He writes for the New York Review of Books and is poetry editor of the Paris Review.
“I am especially touched and honored to be selected because I am an immigrant boy who didn’t speak English until I was 15,” Simic said in a press statement.
“The worlds in his poems might not confirm our own, but they still are fundamentally realistic, since Simic takes the world and refracts it through his imagination and perceptions,” Brian Henry wrote in the Boston Review of Simic’s “Jackstraws,” published in 1999. “He is ultimately a romantic poet, albeit one who has learned from surrealism the effectiveness of surprising juxtapositions, dream-like imagery, and absurdity.”
Simic will take on the role of poet laureate in the fall, when he will give two readings in Washington, D.C.