Poetry Friday: Remembering U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic

Sometimes, you’re just so busy you miss important news. Like the passing of former U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic, about 20 days ago.

Photo credit: Scott Cook.

Simic was one of New Hampshire’s great celebrities, having lived here in the Granite State since 1971 and garnering not only the title of U.S. Poet Laureate but receiving multiple awards including a Pulitzer for his book, The World Doesn’t End.

I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard anything about his death until I stumbled upon an article in one of our state’s newspapers.

So I felt I should probably set aside a blog post recognizing his passing and sharing one of his poems, to introduce him to anyone who may not be familiar with his work.

Simic was adept at saying a lot with a little – which might seem a pretty standard thing for poets – but his poetry had insight, wit, and a unique lyrical quality, written with a singular sense of word economy. Consider, for example, his poem “Evening Walk”:
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Evening Walk

You give the appearance of listening
To my thoughts, o trees,
Bent over the road I am walking
On a late summer evening
When every one of you is a steep staircase
The night is descending.

The leaves like my mother’s lips
Forever trembling, unable to decide…

(read the rest of the poem here)

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Think about that. Each tree is a staircase that the night is descending. Leaves are like trembing, indecisive lips. And there is so much more to the poem than just the connections and imagery. Poems like this force the reader to stop, re-read, re-read again, and come away with some new insight every time.

For those keeping score, Simic was New Hampshire’s 5th U.S. Poet Laureate from 2007-2008, and served in the position previously held from 2006-2007 by another Granite Stater, the esteemed Donald Hall. One of the reasons I love living where I do is because of the intense creativity this particular area holds; Hall lived just half an hour up the road, and another U.S. Poet Laureate, Maxine Kumin, hailed from my own town.

NH’s two other Poets Laureate were Richard Eberhart and the great Robert Frost, the latter of whom graduated from my wife’s high school. So like I said, I have a certain fondness for this state and the literature we put out. Our state might not be the biggest geographically, but we’re definitely big on literary talent.

For more poetry, visit Marcie Flinchum Atkins, who is hosting today’s Poetry Friay roundup with a look at some STEM poetry collections and a winter haiku!


~ World Read Aloud Day 2023 ~

It’s that time of year again, and I will once again be reading to schools and libraries all across the coutry one month from now!

World Read Aloud Day, sponsored by Lit World, spotlights the importance of reading to kids and I will once again be spending most of the day Wednesday, February 1, reading to students virtually! My day is usually jam-packed with 2-3 visits every hour, all day long, and spots are already filling up.

If you would be interested in having me join your class for a 20-minute visit via Zoom, GoogleMeets, MS Teams, Skype, tin cans and string, whatever – let me know! I will read one of my picture books, share some poetry, and talk a little bit about the writing process and how they all came to be! Just email me at matt(at)mattforrest(dot)com and I’ll reply as quickly as I can.


I’m booking author visits for the 2022-23 school year:

Click the graphic for more details!

I love chatting with elementary and middle school classes about writing: why poetry is fun to read and write, the importance of revision, and how one’s imagination and creativity can lead to a fantastic career! My presentations are tailored to fit the needs of the classes and students’ ages. One day I might be sharing details of how a picture book like Flashlight Night (Astra Young Readers, 2017) was created; the next, I’ll be discussing dinosaurs, tree ferns, or origami sea turtles!

Student presentations include:

  • The Making of a Picture Book
  • How a Child Saved a Book
  • “Once Upon Another Time”
  • The Most Imporant Thing about Writing Poetry
  • “I Am Today”

Adult presentations include:

  • The Making of a Picture Book
  • Poetry: An Introduction to the Most Important Genre
  • The Most Important Thing about Writing Poetry
  • Free Yourself with Free Verse
  • Tight Language, Loose Narratives: Crafting a Non-Traditional Picture Book

Learn more at MattForrest.com!

If you or someone you know might be interested in having me visit your school, library, or other organization, please email me
at matt(at)mattforrest(dot)com!

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AVAILABLE EVERYWHERE:
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EVERYBODY COUNTS!
(The Little Fig, LLC, 2023)

Order a PERSONALLY-SIGNED copy of this or or ANY of my books
from my local independent bookstore!

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I’m very happy to be part of the BOOKROO family!

Create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!

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I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.

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Ordering personalized signed copies online? Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personally-signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Astra Young Readers, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018)and nearly EVERY book or anthology I’ve been part of!

Click here to view all my books and to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send a comment to the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH requesting my signature and to whom I should make it out. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)

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Thank you to everyone for your support!

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT:

DON’T ASK A DINOSAUR:

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post once or twice a week – usually Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day) . Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookInstagramPinterest, and SoundCloud!

19 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Remembering U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic

  1. Matt, thank you for introducing me to Charles Simic. His line about the trees as a steep staircase is a favorite in the poem. I felt as if I was walking with Charles. I definitely need to read more poems by him. Once again, congratulations on your new book. I love that it appeals to different age groups based on their perspective.Enjoy your success and have a wonderful weekend.

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  2. Even from far away Australia, Matt, I have been aware of Charles Simic and his powerful poetry and thoughts. I first became aware of him through Ralph Fletcher who oft times quoted Simic in his books on writing. This prompted me to seek out more of Simic’s work. The poem you chose provides a fitting tribute to his poetic mastery -quite stunning. He wrote with brevity and incisive wit and humour as you have noted.

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    1. He did, indeed, Alan. I sort of feel like if we look at Robert Frost as a starting point, Donald Hall was the natural next step of New Hampshire’s poetry evolution and Simic was the next. Their styles, focus, and process seemed almost to develop from each predecessor.

      Like

  3. Janet F.

    Thanks, Matt. I do not know a lot about Charles Simic but you have whet my appetite. I was reading Linda Rief’s latest work about poetry and middle school students, Whispering in the Wind and she lists his poems as ones she recommends to her students. So I know I will be seeking out his poetry more now. And as I read and re-read and pondered the poem you shared, I thought of the beauty of your state which I know a bit about. It is a varied and lovely place to visit and live. My husband lived there for 2 years in HS. Here’s a link if you have not seen Linda’s book. Also your adult presentation described here looks so interesting!! Maybe you can organize a zoom workshop time and charge something, advertise and give us a chance to get to hear your thoughts and ideas. I know it would be helpful. https://www.heinemann.com/products/e13417.aspx#fulldesc

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    1. Thank you so much, Janet! I do hope you look into Simic’s work, as I’m sure you’ll appreciate much of it. And perhaps I should do a Zoom workshop – for some reason, I hadn’t thought of hosting one myself, but why not?? Good idea!

      Like

  4. haitiruth

    Thank you for the Simic poem. I had heard of his death but hadn’t taken the time to go read some of his poems in memory of him. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

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