It’s the birthday of poet Charles Simic (books by this author), born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (1938). His family survived the bombing of Belgrade during World War II and fled Eastern Europe after the war was over. They wound up in Oak Park, Illinois, and Simic went to the same high school Ernest Hemingway had gone to. The high school teachers there were always reminding kids that Hemingway had gone before them, and that inspired Simic to become a writer. He was drawn to poetry because his English still wasn’t very good, and in poems he didn’t have to use so many words.
In 1962, Simic enlisted in the Army. While stationed in Germany, he asked his brother to send him all the poems he had left behind in the United States. When he got the poems in the mail, he sat up all night in the barracks reading them and ripping them up one by one, because he thought they were all imitations of other writers. When they were all gone he suddenly realized that he had nothing left and he would have to start from scratch. So he started writing poems about simple things, household objects — a knife, a fork, a spoon, his shoes. Simic published his first book of poetry, What the Grass Says, in 1967, and he went on to publish many more collections, including School for Dark Thoughts (1978), Frightening Toys (1995), and Night Picnic (2001). His most recent collection is New and Selected Poems: 1962-2012, published in 2013.