I just saw Charles Simic, recent Poet Laureate, give a reading at Cornell. He was amazing. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I didn’t expect him to be so… funny. I don’t think I really got his poetry until I heard him read it. He’s got this fabulous mix of accents from a well-traveled life: childhood in Yugoslavia, youth in New York City and Chicago, and now he lives in rural New Hampshire. And in a brusque, matter-of-fact, self-deprecating way, he told these stories about how he came to write the poems he read. For example, his book of prose poetry, The World Doesn’t End, came about because he had to write a four-page autobiography for an encyclopedia, and he kept imagining “more interesting versions” of his own life. His delivery just made everything click for me. As the professor who introduced him said, if you are not familiar with his poetry and books, your life is diminished - but don’t worry, that’s what bookstores and libraries are for. I would have added - and Poetry Friday.
So here I am, doing my part, sharing one of the poems he read. It has now become one of my favorites, for obvious reasons. It’s called “In the Library”:
There’s a book called
“A Dictionary of Angels.”
No one has opened it in fifty years,
I know, because when I did,
The covers creaked, the pages
Crumbled. There I discovered
The angels were once as plentiful
As species of flies.
The sky at dusk
Used to be thick with them.
You had to wave both arms
Just to keep them away.
Click here to read the rest, so you’ll know what I mean when I say:
Oh yes, the books are whispering. I hear them too, Miss Jones.
Guess who’s on Poetry Friday round-up? It’s Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers. Ya’ll know it’ll be good.