By Majid Naficy

Charles Simic was born in Belgrade, 1938. He immigrated to the US in 1954 and became its citizen in 1971. Simic has published many collections of poems, including The World doesn't End, which won Pulitzer prize in 1990. He lived in New Hampshire where taught American literature. He passed away on January 9, 2023.

On April 28, 202I had a conversation on the stage with Charles Simic in Central Public Library in Los Angeles. Louise Steinman was our host and the Library should have the tape of our whole conversation.

Here are the questions which I asked him:

1. In your memoir, A Fly in the Soup, you say that your greatest teachers, in both art and literature, were the streets. (P. 80) In fact in your poetry there are many references to the street and the homeless. Why is that? Before you answer, would you please read a poem, "Bible  Lesson" from your book, Night Picnic,(p. 26) which demonstrates this fact?

2. The street people are displaced persons, just as you and I who have immigrated to this country. Do you think that there is a connection between  your literary interest in the homeless and your social status as an emigre? Could you please read the first passage from your memoir, A Fly in the Soup, (p. 1) in which you call yourself a displaced person?

3. In an interview with Cortland Review 1998, you consider yourself as a hard-nosed realist who observes the surrealist reality of the homeless and mad people on the street.  Does surrealism in your poetry originate from your surreal subject matters or it has a broader meaning?

4. In page 116 of your memoir, you say that from jazz musicians and modern painters you have learned to cultivate "controlled anarchy" in poetry. Is this a manifestation of surrealism in your work? Would you please read the poem, "My father loved the strange books of Andre Breton" from The World doesn't End P. 66 and tell us what does it mean and how "controlled anarchy" has effected it.

5. In spite of the appearance of streets and the people in your poetry, one feel that the narrative is a loner.  In page 159 of your memoir you state that we all live at the bottom of our private pit.  Could you elaborate on this existentialist approach to man and poetry?

6. In a poem in The World doesn't End, (p. 58)   you address "minor poets" whose readers are limited to their families.  You come from eastern Europe in which the folk bards, to some extent,  still play the same role that Homer did thousands years ago. But in this country, except poets such as Whitman and Ginsberg who were related to spiritual or social movements, other American poets have rarely enjoyed popularity. Is this bad or good? How much eccentric schools like surrealism or postModernism have played a role in this isolation?

7. You have a good sense of humor. for a happy ending could you read from your memoir, p. 34 about your grand father?