Not a peep out of you now
After the bedlam early this morning.
Are you begging pardon of me
Hidden up there among the leaves,
Or are your brains momentarily overtaxed?
You savvy a few things I don’t:
The overlooked sunflower seed worth a holler;
The traffic of cats in the yard;
Strangers leaving the widow’s house,
Tieless and wearing crooked grins.
Or have you got wind of the world’s news?
Some new horror I haven’t heard about yet?
Which one of you was so bold as to warn me,
Our sweet setup is in danger?
Kids are playing soldiers down the road,
Pointing their rifles and playing dead.
Little birdies, are you sneaking wary looks
In the thick foliage as you hear me say this?
Charles Simic, a Serbian-American writer who juxtaposes dark imagery with ironic humor, was named the U.S.’s 15th poet laureate by the Librarian of Congress in 2007.
He began to make a name for himself in the early to mid 1970s as a literary minimalist, writing terse, imagistic poems which, like those of William Blake, have their roots in observed objects that serve to extrapolate the universe.
Over the years, Simic’s style has come to be considered immediately recognizable. Critics have often referred to Simic poems as “tightly constructed Chinese puzzle boxes.” Simic himself has stated: “Words make love on the page like flies in the summer heat and the poet is only the bemused spectator.” The quote intimates Simic’s philosophy that true art must be greater than the person who created it.
“I am especially touched and honored to be selected because I am an immigrant boy who didn’t speak English until I was 15,” responded Simic after being named Poet Laureate.“I’m sort of the product of history; Hitler and Stalin were my travel agents,” he said. “If they weren’t around, I probably would have stayed on the same street where I was born. My family, like millions of others, had to pack up and go, so that has always interested me tremendously: human tragedy and human vileness and stupidity.
His first full-length collection of poems, What the Grass Says, was published the following year. Since then he has published more than sixty books in the U.S. and abroad, twenty titles of his own poetry among them, including That Little Something, My Noiseless Entourage; Selected Poems: 1963-2003, for which he received the 2005 International Griffin Poetry Prize; The Voice at 3:00 AM; Night Picnic; The Book of Gods and Devils; and Jackstraws , which was named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times.
His other books of poetry include Walking the Black Cat, which was a finalist for the National Book Award; A Wedding in Hell; Hotel Insomnia; The World Doesn’t End: Prose Poems , for which he received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; and Unending Blues.