Michelle Recommends: The Life of Images – Charles Simic

“That’s what great poetry is. A superb serenity in the face of chaos. Wise enough to play the fool.”
[From “Reading Philosophy at Night”]

“The poem is an attempt at self-recovery, self-recognition, self-remembering, the marvel of being again.”
[From “Notes on Poetry and Philosophy”]

“Good poetry has never swerved from its purpose as an inexhaustible source of paradoxes about art and the human condition.”
[From “The Trouble with Poetry”]

The summary below mentions a handful of the topics Simic covers here, and while this should perhaps go without saying, I’m still going to point it out: Each and every one of those topics is an eye observing poetry. Even when, at first blush, the essay seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with poems, well, it has everything to do with them. There is so much here, paragraph after paragraph that begs for another moment of thought, that you would be well served to have a pen and notebook nearby as you read.

“In addition to being one of America’s most famous and commended poets, Charles Simic is a prolific and talented essayist. The Life of Images brings together his best prose written over twenty-five years.

A blend of the thoughtful, comic, and tragic, the essays in The Life of Images explore subjects ranging from poetry to philosophy, photography, politics, and art, to Simic’s childhood in a war-torn country. Culled from five collections, these works demonstrate the qualities that make Simic’s poetry so original yet accessible. Whether he is pondering the relationship between history and the individual, or recalling growing up in Belgrade and New York City, Simic shares his distinctive take on the world and offers an intimate look into the life and mind of an immigrant.”