The new poet laureate's name is Charles Simic. Given that, you can probably surmise...what?
He probably writes some obscure verse, no?
You'd be right on those accounts. But I'm quite excited about Simic. There's more to him than merely a senior scrivener. He's originally from Serbia, and emigrated through New York to Chicago. He's now my neighbor in that state just due north, writing free or die, I suppose.
Simic served in the army and went to night school at the University of Chicago. He became a professor of literature at UNH with only a bachelor's degree. Compare any of the self-impressed proffies of literature today with Simic. Ask them if they served in the army. Ask them if they ever had to work full-time while putting themselves through undergrad. I bet you'll find few, if any, who rose to tenure with that kind of resume. I bet you'll find many who are still self-impressed.
Simic, on the other hand, seems incapable of being so impressed with self. When notified that he had been named Poet Laureate, he asked if he could call the committee back. He wasn't sure that this was what he needed.
What do you think? You devote your life to the love of literature, particularly poetry. Do you need to be Poet Laureate of the United States, esteemed by the Library of Congress, charged with advancing poetry as an art form as your JOB for one year? Is that what you need?
Or would you rather watch your state monument's nose crumble a bit more?
Simic describes being a poet as a real chore. Read this, I love this:
So demanding is poetry for Simic that he was taken aback when asked whether he is grateful for all that poetry has done for him. His answer, after a pensive pause, had the kind of unexpected twist that one finds in his poems: "I have never said to myself anything like that. Most of the time poetry, as it exists in the mind of this poet, is a huge pain in the [rear], a huge annoyance, because you are always thinking about it and worrying about things you haven't done well." Then he added, "I am happy it's there. I couldn't imagine my life without this constant annoyance, anxiety, obsession." - David Mehegan, The Boston Globe, August 18, 2007.
I'm excited about Simic and getting to know him through his work. Poetry gives me so much pleasure, more than almost any other art form in life. I can really lose myself in poetry, forgetting whatever pouty mood I was in before, forgetting whatever chores I was slated to do for the rest of the evening. I have been to a sort of poetry camp as an adult and enjoyed it very much, but I do understand what Simic means about poetry being a real pain sometimes. Being away from a computer or my journal causes me great distress and until I am in a place to write again, to channel the changes and sparks that are taking place in my mind and heart, I am merely a woman with a lot of garbage rattling around, a lot of toxins splashing around inside of myself. I've got to get it out and onto screen or paper, or the obsession, the anxiety, the annoyance will cause a pollution problem.
That's something to think about, isn't it? Poetry may just be the grass and flowers that grow on top of our personal landfills.