I have read and enjoyed a great deal of Charles Simic‘s poetry over the years. How did I miss his prose?
I just picked up The Life of Images (2015) and find myself delighted indeed. This book makes a wonderful read for National Poetry Month, despite its subtitle “Selected Prose,” because so many of the pieces in this collection are about poetry or act as prose poems–a form Simic is well-known for.
Every other paragraph or so I find myself wanting to write down a glorious sentence, or a quote I should share with my poetry students, or a concise description that fits perfectly, such as Simic’s observation about Buster Keaton‘s persona in his silent movies: “Bedeviled by endless obstacles, Buster is your average slow-thinking fellow, seeking a hidden logic in an illogical world.”
Being of a philosophical bent myself, I was thrilled to read and then re-read “Notes on Poetry and Philosophy,” with its foundation of Heidegger and Simic’s sly and humorous references to Hegel, Schroedinger, Shakespeare, Dickinson, Whitman and others. That essay is really a series of prose poems that resemble philosophical puzzles and paradoxes.
His essays here often focus on visual art, as well. Movies, paintings, photographs. The image as metaphor.
“The poet is at the mercy of his metaphors. Everything is at the mercy of the poet’s metaphors, even Language, who is their Lord and master.” Ah, yes. One of many paradoxes surrounding the practice and theory of poetry:
“Everything would be simple if we could will our metaphors. We cannot…It took me years to admit that the poem is smarter than I am. Now I go where it wants me to go.”
“Metaphor is a part of the not-knowing aspect of art, and yet I’m firmly convinced that it is the supreme way of searching for truth.”
The usual progression of spring unfurls and blossoms around me, a bounty of images, thank goodness, and Simic has me mulling over my metaphors again.