NEW YORK (Reuters) - American poet Charles Simic was named on Thursday as the United States’ 15th poet laureate by the Library of Congress which described his poetry as accessible with some flashes of ironic humor.
Simic, 69, who was born in Yugoslavia but immigrated to the United States when he was 16, will take up his duties in the fall, opening the Library’s annual literary series, the Librarian of Congress James Billington said in a statement.
The position was created 70 years ago to raise national awareness and appreciation of reading and writing of poetry.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet succeeds Donald Hall and joins a list of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including Ted Kooser, Louise Gluck, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass, Rita Dove and Robert Penn Warren.
“The range of Charles Simic’s imagination is evident in his stunning and unusual imagery. He handles language with the skill of a master craftsman, yet his poems are easily accessible, often meditative and surprising,” said Billington.
“He has given us a rich body of highly organized poetry with shades of darkness and flashes of ironic humor.”
Simic has written 18 books of poetry and is also an essayist and translator. He taught at the University of New Hampshire for 34 years.
He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1990 for his book of prose poems “The World Doesn’t End” and has a list of other awards and fellowships to his name.
Simic, who lives in Strafford, New Hampshire, arrived in the United States in 1954 and said he started writing poetry in high school to get girls’ attention.
“I am especially touched and honored to be selected because I am an immigrant boy who didn’t speak English until I was 15,” said Simic who will publish a new book of poetry, “That Little Something,” in February next year.
The post of poet laureate dates back to 1937 when the position was called “consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress.” The name was changed by an act of Congress in 1985.
Laureates receive a $35,000 annual award with the term lasting one or two years. The Library said it tries to minimize specific duties so laureates can work on their own projects.