The Unwritten Poem
You will never write the poem about Italy.
What Socrates said about love
is true of poetry—where is it?
Not in beautiful faces and distant scenery
but the one who writes and loves.
In your life here, on this street
where the houses from the outside
are all alike, and so are the people.
Inside, the furniture is dreadful –
flock on the walls, and huge color television.
To love and write unrequited
is the poet’s fate. Here you’ll need
all your ardor and ingenuity.
This is the front and these are the heroes –
a life beginning with “Hi!” and ending with “So long!”
You must rise to the sound of the alarm
and march to catch the 6:20 –
watch as they ascend the station platform
and, grasping briefcases, pass beyond your gaze
and hurl themselves into the flames.
From the publisher’s Web site:
Few poets have so artfully confronted American life as Louis Simpson. Persona speakers struggle with everyday issues against a backdrop of larger forces, the individual’s maladjustments to a culture of materialism and brutal competition, the failure of marriage under the pressures of such a society, the failure of the American dream. Simpson wages a lover’s quarrel with the world.
“Louis Simpson has perfect pitch. His poems win us first by their drama, their ways of voicing our ways … of making do with our lives. Then his intelligence cajoles us to the brink of a cliff of solitude and we step over into the buoyant element of true poetry.”
“These poems—wry, cantankerous and skillfully made—are a testament to Simpson’s considerable talent.”
—David Orr, The New York Times Book Review, Sept. 21, 2003
“For more than forty years he has been among our best poets—one of the sharpest describers of daily, unpoetic life. His language and form have grown steadily plainer, drier, more direct, like an old champagne-tres sec.”
—Bill Holm, San Jose Mercury News