This issue features a “micro-interview” with Charles Simic, conducted by Joel Rice. Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, Charles Simic survived starvation and imprisonment throughout World War II. At age sixteen, he immigrated to Oak Park, Illinois, where he wrote his first poems in order to “get girls.” Over the ensuing decades, he collected nearly every award available to the contemporary poet, including the Pulitzer Prize, and was named US poet laureate in 2007, an honor he reflects upon in this interview. Not conveyed here is how pleasantly Mr. Simic’s charismatic voice abrades the ear with its odd intonations and cryptic laughter, or how much he enjoys tripe.
THE BELIEVER: What did you like about the office, literally and symbolically?
CHARLES SIMIC: The office itself is a very nice place. It’s in the Jefferson Building of the library, a beautiful office overlooking the capitol. Physically, it’s wonderful. Capitol Hill is an impressive place. To go up there and to be in the Library of Congress, to be associated with an institution like that—a highly respected institution, and deservedly so—that was terrific.
The most interesting aspect of the position is what I found out about the United States and poetry. I mean how many people out there read poetry and are interested in poetry. Poetry is not really marginal, as everybody assumes. There’s a lot of interest out there. A lot of interest. That was truly astonishing, how much.
We hope you enjoy this excerpt.
To read the full piece, please purchase a copy of the magazine from The McSweeney’s Store.