Simic, Charles. "Interview with Charles Simic," by Eric McHenry, Atlantic Unbound. Available online. URL: www. theatlantic.com/unbound/interviews/ba-2001-01-10.htm. Downloaded December 2003. Stitt, Peter. "Charles Simic: Poetry in a Time of Madness." In Uncertainty & Plenitude: Five Contemporary Poets. Iowa City: university of Iowa Press, 1997. Weigl, Bruce, ed. Charles Simic: Essays on the Poetry. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996.
SIMPSON, LOUIS (1923- ) During the 1950s, along with Galway kinnell, David ignatow, James dickey, Donald hall, and, most notably, Robert bly, Louis Simpson began using the individual voice and open form, dismissing the conventions of rhyme, meter, and regular stanzas. Simpson's verse, along with the others, became known as deep image, deploying story lines a reader could actually visualize. Marked by a spiritual intensity and transcendence of the self rather than confessional immediacy, Simpson was influenced by Spanish and Latin American writers, such as Frederico Garcia Lorca and Pablo Neruda, especially their surreal association of images (see surrealism), as well as the meditational work of Theodore roethke, with his deep feeling for nature as a vehicle of spiritual transformation.
Simpson, born in Jamaica, the West Indies, won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, At the End of the Open Road, Poems (1963). The Arrivistes (1949), from his first book, was published while he was living in France. He
460 "THE SMILE ON THE FACE OF A KOUROS"
studied and taught at Columbia University, later teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as the State University of New York, Stony Brook. He has garnered numerous honors and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for At the End of the Open Road, Poems (1963), and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award for Modern Poets of France: A Bilingual Anthology (1998).
Simpson's poems do not simply record situations, events, and people as they appear to an imaginative and skilled poet; rather they locate the conditions shaping the life within: "I am writing poems based in experience and the images are related to the environment," he once said. "When one of these poems works there's no split between inner and outer worlds" ("Simpson" 51). His themes are many and varied: America, its character, spirit, and ethos; war, from the view of an infantry soldier; and the lives that his actual and visualized ancestors led in volhynia, a part of ancestral Russia. His style is ever-developing: Early adherence to poetic conventions of rhyme, meter, and regular stanzas turned to free verse in the 1950s, and in the 1970s, he began to write narrative poetry, convinced it was the form best suited to revelation.
"An Accident" (1997) turns the reality of a car wreck into an intense visualization of progress and materialism gone awry: "Why are the cars slowing up? / An Accident. To rubberneck." The carnage we witness is charged with reality. The persona fuses the poet and his reader, and, using a technique of prose fiction, it creates a narrative poem in much the same way that Anton Chekhov would with prose. Here is Simpson's willingness to make his proxy a participant in the scene, not its documentarian. And, if the speaker notices "gawkers," then those of us who do "rubberneck" are more attentive to the speaker. When the speaker looks at a road ahead, he sees it "either pointing at the sky / or falling off an edge into space." The reader is urgently, plainly taken to the physical frontier of trauma and presented with spiritual choices. As the distractions that the world presents as reality must be understood for what they are and for what they are not, Simpson's poetry moves us to an understanding of this less-than-complete life.
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