Friday, March 14, 2008

U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic

Quote of the week:
To encourage literature and the arts is a duty which all good citizens owe to their country.
~ George Washington

And now a poem:
by Charles Simic

Green Buddhas
On the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
And spit out the teeth.

From Return to a Place Lit By a Glass of Milk

Mr. Simic is our current U.S. Poet Laureate.

What is a Poet Laureate?
"Laureate" comes from the laurel plant, which in ancient Greece was sacred to the sun god Apollo, and was used to form a crown of honour for poets and other heroes. The word "laureate" came from that to signify eminence or glory.

A Poet Laureate is a poet who is chosen to be honored by a country, state, town, or school for their talents. In the middle ages, England's kings and queens started having personal poet laureates who would compose poems in the royals' honor. In England, poets laureate traditionally receive the title for life; in the U.S., their term is approximately one school year.

In addition to our national poet laureate, there are also state laureates:
Poet Laureates of the individual states

More about Charles Simic:
Charles Simic was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1938 and lived his childhood in the midst of the European battleground of World War II. As he told JM Spalding of The Cortland Review in 1998, “Germans and the Allies took turns dropping bombs on my head while I played with my collection of lead soldiers on the floor. I would go boom, boom, and then they would go boom, boom. Even after the war was over, I went on playing war. My imitation of a heavy machine gun was famous in my neighborhood in Belgrade.” At 15, he moved to Paris with his mother; the next year they joined his father in the U.S.

Becoming a poet in Chicago and New York: Simic’s family settled in Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, and he graduated from high school there. He has said that he began to write poems to impress girls: “I still tremble at the memory of a certain Linda listening breathlessly to my doggerel on her front steps.”
from poetry

Lastly, in the spirit of poets writing works for special occasions and political events, here is a link to Maya Angelou's recitation of On the Pulse of Morning at the 1993 presidential inauguration.

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