Come Closer and Listen: New Poems

Ecco: HarperCollins. Jul. 2019. 96p. ISBN 9780062908469. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062908483. POETRY
The Pulitzer Prize–winning Simic, who was born in 1938 and spent his first 11 years in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, remembers his past in these poems of old age. Reflective and melancholic, with references to people leaving and lights flashing in the distance, the poems evoke a sense of loss—either present or impending. They include everything from a “Ghost Ship” vanishing to bombings (“A great city lay reduced to ruins”) to decay (“the seedy block/ Of small dimly-lit shops”). Some of the poems are suggestive of death, with haunting metaphors as in a truck stop where death is “the pale thief…Sipping coffee in the rear booth/ Of an all-night diner.” Other poems openly discuss it: “Is Charles Simic afraid of death?/ Yes….” Running through these mostly free-verse pieces are ironic references to prayer and God, as in God explaining why He’s silent, the narrator going to the dump when others go to church, or lines from “In My Church,” one of the best poems here, ending with this powerful image (where the your refers to God): “One or two candles still burning/ In your terrifying absence/ Under the dark and majestic dome.”
VERDICT For all libraries.
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