Master of Disguises

Harcourt. Oct. 2010. c.96p. ISBN 978-0-547-39709-2. $22. POETRY
Simic (Night Picnic), the prolific Serbian American author and winner of numerous awards, here confirms that he is still the poet of overlooked details and everyday objects. In many of Simic's poems, an event seemingly needs to be elucidated. And in his skilled collaging and juxtaposition of unrelated images, the poet acts as assembler of tiny shards of unfinished story. War, and particularly the poet's childhood memories of it, breathes throughout and is felt in the background as a sole narrator or a mere whisperer of its passage: " Nothing ever happens here/ except for these foreign wars/ that maim the young boys/ and leave their golden girls/ to hustle drinks in local dives." Simic's plain yet elusive language is freighted with a rich web of references ranging from folktales, myths, and fables to historical and autobiographical asides. He mixes humor with seriousness and deploys comedy in the bitterest of situations to create the sense of detachment needed to write sharp-eyed poetry. In the end, his voice echoes the Romantic dream of reconciling poetic language with everyday speech. His forwardness and the exact treatment of his objects are reminiscent of the works of William Carlos Williams.
VERDICT As always, Simic brings to light the richness of life's objects and thus embraces a vital task of poetry. Recommended for all readers.

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