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Night Picnic: Poems Hardcover – September 28, 2001

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Simic's accomplishments as an American poet have deep roots in his wartime-Serbia childhood: his sly, uncanny arrangements of household words in short poems some comic, others genuinely scary convey a sense of menace everywhere, and of gentle, sad sarcasm as the right response. This first book of poems since 1999's Jackstraws continues Simic's familiar, unsettling methods and extends them into the terrain of older age. In "Past-Lives Therapy," "a straw-headed boy in patched overalls" becomes a man "constructing a spaceship out of a coffin"; in "Three Doors," "Some fellow/ with that it-pays-to-be-cagey look" stands in for the cagey poet. "Icarus' dog," "aesthetic paradox," "a Jesus lookalike/ Who won a pie-eating contest in Texas," a Kafkaesque "small nameless bug" and an empty schoolhouse add to the well-stocked gallery of amiable grotesques, among which "we the bewildered" make our way. The third and most moving of the book's three parts departs from Simic's usual pattern, offering saddened epigrams followed by powerful meditations on death and old age, considered as a raindrop, as a kitchen or as a restaurant "The check is being added in the back/ As we speak." Simic's poems can grow predictable in their methods image succeeds image, each short-lined stanza as haunting or hard-boiled as the next. But Simic (who won a Pulitzer for The World Doesn't End) remains a powerful, and funny, chronicler of an individual world one where pastry, omelets and queen-size beds offer their ambiguous pleasures, and where, inseparably, "the butchery of the innocent/ Never stops." It is a world that should be familiar. (Sept.) Forecast: Simic's last few books received admiring press from all over, helped in part by his increasing prominence as an essayist (The Unemployed Fortune Teller and Orphan Factory) and book reviewer. This strong collection should at least equal recent volumes' success, and should be a contender for major awards. A collected or ra evised selected volume can't be far behind.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This follow-up to the recent Jackstraws (LJ 3/1/99) finds Simic in a relatively benign and domestic frame of mind. While his predilection for dread and his predisposition toward surreal non sequiturs haven't entirely vanished, the poet more often turns his attention to the mundane: objects on a dresser, unmade beds, a gas station, strolling lovers ("I was warm, so I took my jacket off/ And put my arm around your waist/ and drew you to me"). Simic's tone is generally flat and matter-of-fact, and if evil intrudes, it barely ripples the easygoing delivery ("The devil's got his finger in every pie"). The poems are vignettes, ordinary or quirky scenes displayed at face value, vaguely inviting the reader to extend them beyond their uncertain borders via glancing references to churches, angels, and saints convenient ciphers meant to suggest a metaphysical dimension more easily implied than articulated. Like the "Tree of Subtleties" he describes, Simic intends to hint "at dark secrets still to be unveiled," but blanched of sharp linguistic edges or striking images, the hints just aren't compelling enough. Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (September 28, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015100630X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151006304
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.7 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,358,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By David Miller on March 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I very much enjoyed Charles Simic's Night Picnic. I have yet to discover a volume of his poems, or essays for that matter, to which I would give less than 4 stars. Although I have given this volume 5 stars, if I could I would have given it 4 ½ stars. This is NOT a minor work, to be sure; however it is not, in my opinion one of Simic's best works. Still, I do highly recommend Night Picnic - the poetry is delightfully engaging and the hardbound volume itself is of a quality rarely found these days.

I do hope you will pick up this volume, but afterward may I suggest you go further and invest in Simic's absolutely mesmerizing volumes: A Wedding In Hell and The World Doesn't End - I have perhaps a dozen volumes of Simic's poetry in my collection and these two are by far my favorites yet. Of course Charles Simic famously was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The World Doesn't End, which you should know is primarily a work of prose poetry.
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Format: Hardcover
I love this book but fail to find the right words to describe it. As Simic writes in metaphors I am making a clumpsy attempt to compare this collection to a cup of tea -- subtle aroma with awakening strength; simplicity in forms with depth in meanings. Sympathetic, elusive, hopeful, hopeless, provocative, and more. The writer left ample room for a reader's own perspective. The poems cover a broad range of subjects and the collection is stimulating from beginning to end. Here is just one example: "Light,/Mystic tipster,/You come rarely,/If at all//Down in the hole/To see me kneeling/With a clip-on halo/Waiting for you." The excerpt is telling of the effortlessness in rendition but the weight of thoughts.
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