Charles Simic has been Poet Laureate of the United States. His latest book is Scribbled in the Dark, a volume of poetry. (November 2017)

IN THE REVIEW

Poems from the Abyss

Czesław Miłosz, New York City, 1986

Miłosz: A Biography

by Andrzej Franaszek, edited and translated from the Polish by Aleksandra and Michael Parker
Czesław Miłosz, the Polish poet, writer, diplomat, exile, and Nobel laureate, was a figure whose own life seemed to embody the turmoil of the twentieth century. He lived through both world wars and the Russian Revolution, experienced fascism, communism, and democracy, lived in Eastern and Western Europe and, later, the United States, and he returned again and again to these events in his writing. “To me Miłosz is one of those authors whose personal life dictates his work…. Except for his poems, all of his writing is tied to his…personal history or to the history of his times,” Witold Gombrowicz, the other great Polish writer in exile, said of him. I agree, but would not exclude Miłosz’s poems and don’t believe he would either, since he regarded his highest achievement as a poet to be his ability to fuse history and his personal experience.

A Voice for the Voiceless

Philip Levine, New York City, September 1995; photograph by Jill Krementz

The Last Shift

by Philip Levine, edited by Edward Hirsch

My Lost Poets: A Life in Poetry

by Philip Levine, edited by Edward Hirsch
“Nothing epic,” Philip Levine said of his own poems. “Just the small heroics of getting through the day when the day doesn’t give a shit, getting through the world with as much dignity as you can pull together from the tiny resources left to you.”

In the Snow

Tracks of someone lost, Bleakly preoccupied, Meandering blindly In these here woods, Licking his wounds And crunching the snow As he trudges on, Bereft and baffled, In mounting terror With no way out, Jinxed at every …

Must Lerner Connect?

Ben Lerner, Sanibel Island, Florida, December 2016

The Hatred of Poetry

by Ben Lerner
Don’t let the boy just loaf about; If he writes verses, kick him out. —Martial (c. 40–c. 103) Poetry has been around forever. It predates literacy and perhaps even the gods, who, some say, were invented by poets. There are so many types of poems, ranging from the epic …

NYR DAILY

Year One: Our President Ubu

I hate everyone you hate, was Trump’s message over and over again, and these numbskulls who can’t even tell the differences between an honest man and a crook nudged each other, knowing exactly whom he had in mind. Since Trump became president, every time I told myself this man is bonkers, I remembered Ubu Roi, realizing how the story of his presidency and the cast of characters he has assembled in the White House would easily fit into Alfred Jarry’s play without a single word needing to be changed.

The Age of Total Lies

Vesna Pešić: Taking over the problems of immigration and terrorism, right-wing politicians promised to “protect” citizens by spreading xenophobia, fear, and nationalism. They have risen to power by presenting themselves as the guardians of an abandoned working class, making appeals to nationalism and patriotic selfishness, and promising to kick the immigrants out.

Dizzy in the Daylight

In Jim Marshall’s Jazz Festival, we see dozens of the greats, musicians who made their names playing radically different kinds of music, performing or being caught by the camera schmoozing backstage between sets and enjoying each other’s company. Marshall had no idea while snapping these pictures, of course, that he was compiling a record of a vanished world, an America even more remote from us today than the one of the rock musicians and their fans that he covered in later years.

NYR CALENDAR