Adrienne Raphel at JSTOR Daily:
Charles Simic, the late, great Serbian-American poet, was born in 1938 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. In 1941, when Simic was three, Hitler invaded, and a bomb explosion hurled Simic out of bed. Three years later, in 1944, another series of detonations exploded across town—this time, dropped by Allies. Images of a war-torn country inform Simic’s earliest memories. Belgrade had become a chess board, a deadly battleground for both the Nazis and Allies. Simic emigrated as a boy to the United States, and he wrote poetry in English, but the hellish landscape of his youth lay at the heart of his work.
Simic was also a chess prodigy, and the game rewired his brain. As he wrote in the New York Review of Books, “The kinds of poems I write—mostly short and requiring endless tinkering—often recall for me games of chess. They depend for their success on word and image being placed in proper order and their endings must have the inevitability and surprise of an elegantly executed checkmate.”