5 Ways to Get to Know Poet Charles Simic

Posted on January 12, 2023

by Eric P

Maybe one of the advantages of poetry as a career is that you can be one of the most celebrated and successful poets in America but still not be recognized when you run out to the convenience store for Funyons. It’s why you see so few sestinas about how annoying the paparazzi are.

Within those parameters, Charles Simic – who died January 9 at the age of 84 – was kind of American poetry’s Beyoncé. Pulitzer Prize? Check. Poet laureate? Check. MacArthur genius grant? Well, duh.

A young Simic emigrated with his family from war-torn Belgrade to the US where he grew to develop a poetic style that was allusive and multifarious and ruminative and often boldly funny. It was also distinctively — and idiosyncratically – American: in its muscular vocabulary, in its synthesis of influences, in its epicurean indulgences. All filtered through an extravagantly opportunistic diversity of styles and subjects, as though Simic were plucking varieties from well-stocked department store shelves to meet his eclectic appetites.

All that, and he wore cool glasses. Who needs paparazzi anyway?