Sunday, April 14, 2013

national poetry month: charles simic

While searching for a poem to feature this week I came across "In the Library" by Charles Simic (Dušan "Charles" Simić) and it was love at first run-through.  As I began to read more about Simic (a Pulitzer Prize-winner and onetime Poet Laureate), I grew increasingly embarrassed about the fact that I wasn't familiar with him and his work before.  All I can say in my defense is that poetry is not my bailiwick.1

The text of the poem is below, but I recommend popping over to The Poetry Archive and listening to the recording they have made available of Simic reading "In the Library" (direct link to poem page).

"In the Library" by Charles Simic
for Octavio
There's a book called
"A Dictionary of Angels."
No one has opened it in fifty years,
I know, because when I did,
The covers creaked, the pages
Crumbled. There I discovered

The angels were once as plentiful
As species of flies.
The sky at dusk
Used to be thick with them.
You had to wave both arms
Just to keep them away.

Now the sun is shining
Through the tall windows.
The library is a quiet place.
Angels and gods huddled
In dark unopened books.
The great secret lies
On some shelf Miss Jones
Passes every day on her rounds.

She's very tall, so she keeps
Her head tipped as if listening.
The books are whispering.
I hear nothing, but she does.
"In the Library" is included in The Book of Gods and Devils and Sixty Poems (published on the occasion of Simic's appointment as Poet Laureate of the United States) and possibly in other collections of Simic's work.
  1. bailiwick: area of interest, skill, or authority; jurisdiction.
    One of the higher-ups at work has a great affection for the word bailiwick and hearing him use it on a number of different occaions has sealed its meaning into my brain more successfully than the standard rule about using a new word in a sentence x-many times.

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