From Publishers Weekly
In his 18th collection, Poet Laureate Simic's neat stanzas continue to deliver odd moments and unexplained memories, by turns surreal, horrifying, funny, sad, and spoken with this Pulitzer Prize winner's trademark friendly bemusement. The startling solemnity of a Metaphysics Anonymous meeting for addicts of truth beyond appearances in one poem meets, in another, a list of topics for a late-night chat, including 'How to guess time of night by listening to one's own heartbeat. The second of the book's four sections takes on a decidedly political tone, as in Dance of the Macabre Mice, in which the president smiles to himself; he loves war. Similarly, Those Who Clean After imagines what's being done in our name while the speaker listens to the sounds of summer night. The final section groups short poems that Simic (My Noiseless Entourage
) calls Eternities—each offers a preserved moment's thought or image: Sewing room, linty daylight. While fans will find no stylistic surprises here, there is still the agreeable pathos in Simic's work, as in To the Reader, which ends, Bang your head / On your side of the wall / And keep me company. (Apr.)
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Simic’s concise, silvery, and sardonic poems sketch grim vignettes in a world of absences. Here we are in an empty museum wing, on a ghost ship, and treading stairways to hell in a blacked-out city where clocks have stopped and “mad men” rule. The few survivors are traumatized yet remain enthralled by desire and touched by beauty. Simic, a pivotal voice of our bloody times, draws on dark fairy tales, Shakespeare, and pulp fiction as his poems rise from the page like the smoke of the last cigarettes of the damned. This is the blasted, blighted land of tyranny and genocide, morgues and ruins, bold-faced lies and sleepless nights. Simic writes disarmingly of those who clean up after the torturers are finished for the day and the stupid jubilation that breaks out as, once again, the machinery of war is cranked into action. And yet for all the corrosive pain, there is a macabre playfulness here and cleansing anger. We may be trapped in a nightmare of brutality, but we stubbornly “look for another refuge.” --Donna Seaman