Charles Simic has been Poet Laureate of the United States. His most recent books are The Lunatic, a volume of poetry, and The Life of Images, a book of his selected prose.
 (August 2016)


The Consolations of Strangeness

The After Party

by Jana Prikryl
Reading some of Jana Prikryl’s poems is like walking into a movie theater in the middle of a film one knows nothing about, trying to figure out what is happening on the screen, irked at first that the answer is not forthcoming, and gradually growing more and more entranced by the mystery of every face and every action, detached as they are from any context.

You Laugh Uncontrollably

Bohumil Hrabal at the Canadian embassy in Prague, summer 1990

Mr. Kafka and Other Tales from the Time of the Cult

by Bohumil Hrabal, translated from the Czech by Paul Wilson

Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age

by Bohumil Hrabal, translated from the Czech by Michael Henry Heim, with an introduction by Adam Thirlwell
Bohumil Hrabal’s complete works in Czech add up to nineteen volumes, of which at least twenty books have been translated into English, an achievement not many foreign fiction writers of the recent past can claim. I first heard his name when I saw Closely Watched Trains, a film based on …

Bernie & Hillary & the Future

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at the Democratic presidential debate, Las Vegas, October 2015
This was, indeed, a very different presidential debate from the ones Republicans had in August and September. Sixteen candidates then used their allotted time trying to outdo each other in scaring Americans out of their pants by warning them about enemies everywhere, from illegal immigrants pouring across our borders, selling …


It was like a teetering house of cards, A contortionist strumming a ukulele, A gorilla raging in someone’s attic, A car graveyard frantic to get back On the interstate highway in a tornado, Tolstoy’s beard in his mad old age, General Custer’s stuffed horse…


Syria with One Eye

Aleppo, Syria, October 5, 2016

Charles Simic interviews the Syrian poet Rasha Omran who, since the beginning of Syria’s civilian uprising in 2011, has been a fearless critic of the Bashar al-Assad regime and the failure of Arab intellectuals to denounce its crimes. She lives in exile in Egypt, where she has continually spoken out against the war and in support of democratic reform.

The Meaning of New Hampshire

A primary voter in Manchester, New Hampshire, February 9, 2016

Seeing Trump signs in impoverished towns here that never fully recovered after the mills closed forty years ago makes one sad. These are clearly stunningly uninformed people, ignorant even of their own family histories.

Sticking to Our Guns

The coverage of our elections has a fairy tale feel to it. Our national press pretends that they are dealing with men and women of principle, offering carefully thought-out solutions to our nation’s problems, rather than groveling servants of billionaires who finance their campaigns; and that the voters these candidates try to persuade in the primaries are well-informed and well-meaning Americans and not people who by and large get their information from Fox TV and hate radio.

A Brutal American Epic

Olympian Cotton Mills, Columbia, South Carolina, 1905

Charles Reznikoff’s long poem Testimony: The United States (1885-1915): Recitative is a compilation of case summaries, a sequence of self-contained pieces. These “recitatives,” as he called them, tell the stories of some five hundred court cases from all over this country and deal with a broad segment of the American population, urban and rural.