Sometimes a Little Bullshit Is Fine: A Conversation with Charles Simic

Chard deNiord in The Paris Review:

I first met Charles Simic in 1994 at a dinner to celebrate the Harvard Review’s special issue dedicated to Simic. I had written an essay for the issue titled “He Who Remembers His Shoes” that focused on several of his poems and so was invited to this dinner and seated next to him. While we were eating, a small black ant started crawling across the white table cloth. Simic became mesmerized by this ant. We both wondered if the ant was going to “make it” to the other side, and then, suddenly, our waiter appeared and swept it up. Simic almost wept. (I later learned that ants were his favorite insect.) What an object lesson it was for me in Simic’s compassion for the smallest creatures, what Czesław Miłosz called “immense particulars.” I stayed in touch with Simic off and on after this night, inviting him to read at the M.F.A. program I cofounded in 2001. Simic declined at first, saying he was “too pooped” after a reading tour in Europe, but then agreed to come in 2005. He read at The Fells, John Hayes’ elegant estate overlooking Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire which New England College rented for the occasion. The indelible image of him with the lake and gardens behind him has stayed with me ever since.

On November 21, I interviewed Simic on Zoom after several failed attempts to meet with him in Strafford, New Hampshire, where he lived. He was already having health issues, then but assured me that he was well enough—and eager—to chat. For an hour and twenty minutes we talked about everything from his local dump to his childhood in Belgrade during World War II.

More here.