Charles Simic

United States Poet Laureate (2007-2008)
Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet
MacArthur "Genius" Award Recipient

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• An Evening with Charles Simic

Biography

“Charles Simic’s writing comes dancing out on the balls of its feet, colloquially fit as a fiddle.” —Seamus Heaney

“There are few poets writing in America today who share his lavish appetite for the bizarre, his inexhaustible repertoire of indelible characters and gestures…Simic is perhaps our most disquieting muse.” —Harvard Review

Charles Simic, the fifteenth Poet Laureate of the United States (2007-2008), was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in 1938, and immigrated to the United States in 1953 at the age of 15. He has lived in New York, Chicago, the San Francisco area, and for many years in New Hampshire, where until his retirement he was a professor of English at the university.

A poet, essayist, and translator, Simic has been honored with the Frost Medal, the Wallace Stevens Award, a Pulitzer Prize, two PEN Awards for his work as a translator, and a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2014, he was awarded the Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award, which recognizes outstanding artistic and intellectual literary achievements that uphold the values of Zbigniew Herbert’s work. Edward Hirsch, a member of the international Jury, points out that Simic “specializes in tragicomedy. Like Zbigniew Herbert, he has a keen historical awareness, a sardonic sense of humor, and a powerful consciousness of human tragedy. He speaks out against human venality. His way of attacking a poem has inspired poets world-wide. He also inspires readers because he reminds people of their humanity.”

Since 1967 Simic has published numerous collections of poems, among them, The Lunatic (2015),  Master of Disguises (2010); That Little Something (2008); My Noiseless Entourage (2005); Selected Poems: 1963-2003 (2004), for which he received the 2005 International Griffin Poetry Prize; The Voice at 3:00 AM: Selected Late and New Poems (2003); The World Doesn’t End: Prose Poems (1990), for which he received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; Selected Poems: 1963-1983 (1990); Classic Ballroom Dances (1980), which won the University of Chicago’s Harriet Monroe Award and the Poetry Society of America’s di Castagnola Award. A collection entitled Sixty Poems was released in honor of his appointment as US Poet Laureate.

About his appointment to US Poet Laureate, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said, “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.”

Simic has also published a number of prose books: Memory Piano (2006); Metaphysician in the Dark (2003); A Fly in My Soup (2003); Orphan Factory (1998); The Unemployed Fortune-Teller: Essays and Memoirs (1994); Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell (1992); Wonderful Words, Silent Truth: Essays on Poetry and a Memoir (1990); and The Renegade, a book of essays. His newest collection, The Life of Images, is longlisted for the 2016 PEN Award for the Art of the Essay. He has published many translations of poets from former Yugoslavia such as Ivan Lalic, Vasko Popa, Tomaz Salamun, and Aleksandar Ristovic, as well as an anthology of Serbian poetry entitled The Horse Has Six Legs, which he both edited and translated. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and The Paris Review.

Short Bio

Charles Simic is the author of numerous collections of poems, among them, The Lunatic, Master of DisguisesSelected Poems: 1963-2003, for which he received the 2005 International Griffin Poetry Prize; The World Doesn’t End: Prose Poems, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; Classic Ballroom Dances, which won the University of Chicago’s Harriet Monroe Award and the Poetry Society of America’s di Castagnola Award. A collection entitled Sixty Poems was released in honor of his appointment as US Poet Laureate. Simic has also published a number of prose books, most recently Memory Piano, and many translations of poets from former Yugoslavia as well as an anthology of Serbian poetry entitled The Horse Has Six Legs. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and The Paris Review.

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