Martin Farawell, Program Director, Poetry
In his poems “Ghosts,” “Country Fair” and “Sunday Papers,” Charles Simic brings us into a world were absurdity is accepted as a mundane fact of life.
Simic is sometimes called a surrealist. Yet the visitation in “Ghosts” is described by someone who remains utterly rational. The details are examined carefully, almost clinically. It wouldn’t take much of an adjustment for Simic to tell us that the poem is meant as a fantasy, or as a product of the unconscious. But he doesn’t. Instead, he confesses, “I don’t believe any of it, and still I’m scared stiff.”
Some commentators also credit Simic with an ironic sense of humor. The woman in “Country Fair” and the audience listening to the reading both laugh at the six-legged dog. If we laugh, too, is it because Simic is trying to be funny?
Simic’s poem about the relaxing weekend ritual of reading the “Sunday Papers” begins, “The butchery of the innocent never stops.” It ends with the couple preparing to share their Sunday roast. This familiar domestic image could suggest that together they have made a sanctuary against the chaotic violence of the time. Perhaps they have. But then is Simic’s inclusion of the detail that they are about to dine on a slaughtered lamb motivated by the desire to be ironic, humorous or surreal? Or by “the vague desire for truth and the mighty fear of it.”
“Ghosts,” “Country Fair” and “Sunday Papers” can be found in Sixty Poems. Charles Simic’s most recent collection is That Little Something. Visit the 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival Poet Pages for a biography of Charles Simic.
Be sure to return for upcoming Poetry Fridays, when we will feature many poets from past Dodge Poetry Festivals in the weeks ahead, including C. D. Wright, Franz Wright and others.