In honor of our boy Simic being named poet laureate, I’ve decided to inaugurate (historically-inclined) Poetry Friday here at PH.
I’m still thinking about historians, museums, and the productive, creative, life-affirming work we do and can do in the face of catastrophes. More on that later. But expect to see more of the literary imagination around history featured here, in particular a review of John Crowley’s new book. Can a writer of historical fiction be called a public historian?
Simic’s poems are absurd and weary, tolerant of folly, but joyous in a feast or a moment caught in the light of the end of the world. Here’s a Simic prose poem, from his 1989 book The World Doesn’t End:
A century of gathering clouds. Ghost ships arriving and leaving. The sea deeper, vaster. The parrot in the bamboo cage spoke several languages. The captain in the daguerrotype had his cheeks painted red. He brought a half-naked girl from the tropics whom they kept chained in the attic even after his death. At night she made sounds that might have been singing. The captain told of a race of men without mouths who subsisted only on the scents of flowers. This made his wife and mother say a prayer for salvation of all unbaptized souls. Once, however, we caught the captain taking off his beard. It was false! Under it he had another beard, equally absurd-looking.
It was the age of busy widow’s walks. The dead languages of love were still in use, but also much silence, much soundless screaming at the top of the lungs.