Charles Simic Receives the Wallace Stevens Award

Posted on

Aug 02 2007
Charles Simic

New York, August 2—Charles Simic has been selected as the recipient of the 2007 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets. The $100,000 prize recognizes outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. The Academy’s Board of Chancellors, a body of sixteen eminent poets, nominates and elects the Wallace Stevens Award recipient.

Of Charles Simic, Academy Chancellor James Tate wrote:

Charles Simic is a poet of immense, humane consideration. He carries our souls around in his back pocket like a map of the lost world.

Charles Simic was born on May 9, 1938, in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where he had a difficult childhood during World War II. In 1953 he and his mother joined his father in the United States. Simic’s first poems were published in 1959, and two years later he was drafted into the U.S. Army. In 1966 he earned his Bachelor's degree from New York University, having worked various jobs such as shirt salesman and bookstore clerk to cover the cost of tuition.

Simic published his first full-length collection of poems, What the Grass Says, the year after he graduated, and since then he has published twenty books of poetry, among them My Noiseless Entourage (Harcourt, 2005); Selected Poems: 1963–2003 (2004), for which he received the 2005 International Griffin Poetry Prize; The Voice at 3:00 A.M.: Selected Late and New Poems (2003); Jackstraws (1999), which was named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times; Walking the Black Cat (1996); A Wedding in Hell (1994); Hotel Insomnia (1992); and The World Doesn't End: Prose Poems (1990), for which he received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. A new book, That Little Something, will be published by Harcourt next spring.

Simic has also brought the works of poets writing throughout the world to English speaking readers through his translations of French, Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian, and Slovenian poetry. He has edited several books of essays, including Orphan Factory, and numerous anthologies, including The Horse Has Six Legs: An Anthology of Serbian Poetry and the 1992 edition of The Best American Poetry.

The Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, appointed Simic Poet Laureate of the United States today. Simic’s many other honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1995, and he received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship in 1998. Since 1973 he has lived in New Hampshire, where he is Professor of English at the University of New Hampshire.

The Academy of American Poets will feature Mr. Simic in a free public reading in New York City's Bryant Park on August 21. He will also participate in the Academy's inaugural Poets Forum in October. For more information, please visit www.poets.org/poets.forum.

The Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets
The Wallace Stevens Award recipient is nominated and elected by the Academy’s Board of Chancellors. The current Chancellors are Frank Bidart, Rita Dove, Robert Hass, Lyn Hejinian, Galway Kinnell, Nathaniel Mackey, Sharon Olds, Carl Phillips, Robert Pinsky, Kay Ryan, Gary Snyder, Gerald Stern, Susan Stewart, James Tate, Ellen Bryant Voigt, and C.K. Williams.

About the Award
The Wallace Stevens Award is given annually by the Academy of American Poets to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. Established in 1994, the award carries a stipend of $100,000. Previous recipients include W. S. Merwin, Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, Ruth Stone, Richard Wilbur, Mark Strand, Gerald Stern, and Michael Palmer. Wallace Stevens, one of the major American poets of the twentieth century, was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1879. After attending Harvard University, he received a law degree from New York Law School, and worked as a corporate lawyer at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company from 1916 until his death in 1955. Harmonium, his first collection of poems, was published in 1923, but it was only very late in his life, after the publication of The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (1954), that his work began to receive broad attention and critical acclaim.

About the Academy of American Poets
The Academy of American Poets is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1934 to foster appreciation for contemporary poetry and to support American poets at all stages of their careers. For over three generations, the Academy has connected millions of people to great poetry through programs such as National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world; Poets.org, the most popular site about poetry on the web, presenting a wealth of great poems, audio recordings, poet biographies, essays, and interactive discussions about poetry; the Poetry Audio Archive, capturing the voices of contemporary American poets for generations to come; American Poet, a biannual literary journal; and our annual series of poetry readings and special events. The Academy also awards prizes to accomplished poets at all stages of their careers—from hundreds of student prizes at colleges nationwide to the Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement in the art of poetry.


Photo by Philip Simic, courtesy of Charles Simic.