Charles Simic has been Poet Laureate of the United States. Come Closer and Listen, his latest book of poems, will be out next year. (August 2018)


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.”


The Poet’s Pencil

I knew a poet who could only write his poems with a stub of a pencil. Nothing else worked for him as well. What he loved about writing with a stub is that it made his scribble mostly illegible. That way, he never felt embarrassed by what he had written. He’d look at it, and look at it, afterward, while trying to guess what in the name of God he had said.

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.