I’ve never understood the appeal of Selected Poetry or Stories collections, especially when an author releases multiple a la Bradbury and Harlan Ellison.
The acceptable approach seems to be: Take your favorite ten poems from your favorite five previously published collections and slap on five new poems to justify the publication.
A pet peeve of most bibliomaniacs, I imagine, is having the same pieces across multiple editions. Like when Vandermeer re-anthologized certain weird stories across multiple weird anthologies. Or when you realize all 100 Harlan Ellison books are just scrambled permutations of the same 100 stories in deceptive combinations. The randomness is counterproductive and maddening.
When will Library of America release a Complete Charles Simic? Add to that a Complete Billy Collins. Instead we are forced to abuse our librarians, demanding dozens of tiny compilations, creating immense flow charts of various versions of miniscule works and tables of contents, collating, scouring, amassing, and finally, in the end, giving up.
Simic remains a kinetically rhythmic synthesizer of modern ennui.
I think Charles Simic’s poetry is for people who don’t like poetry. Of course, people who like poetry can also enjoy it. Like Billy Collins, I consider his small, one-sitting collections to be gateway drugs into the world of poetry.
Analyzing poetry has never been fun for me, which is why I’ve been less enthusiastic about Emily Dickinson. But I’ve found that the more of a poet you read, the more you acquire a sense of their voice. With Dickinson and Milton and other poets I would consider ‘serious’ or ‘difficult,’ it is simply a matter of acclimatizing oneself. Simic remains an extremely approachable poet, with an infectious voice. Reading his poems is to be invited into his brain, his living room, his life. They are conversations, usually in his kitchen or at his writing desk, or while he’s running errands. He’s telling you how he feels, while at the same time expressing poignant views on a multitude of topics, from politics to literature to history to nature.
You could analyze these poems, but more likely you will simply breeze through them with a thrilling sense of comprehension. There is no struggle to adjust expectations or conquer the words on the page. While I set about reading more demanding literature, like the works of the Romantic poets, I find that taking little breathers to enjoy books like this one are a great palate cleanser.
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