Charles Simic moved to America when he was still young. As a result, he used the idea of living in exile in his poetry. In the poem “Pastoral,” the speaker comes to a field “with peculiar portraits of words and silence” (Engelmann 45). As the poem moves forward, Simic uses obscure language. We, as readers, are surrounded by silence, and we are no longer standing in a field. Instead, we are looking at the stars. “The sleeping embers of the “word fire” send a spark that lands in the speaker’s palm, a reminder of his continuing search for signs, for words forgotten and places long-gone” (Engelmann 46). When the field is discussed, it may seem like the speaker is talking with “echoes of his past and present self that emerge through the speaker’s voice,” (Engelmann 46) but that is not the case. Instead, the speaker’s “voice distances its presence, and searches for the self of language” (Engelmann 46). Strangely, the speaker remains anonymous throughout the poem: the speaker is a “self without a self- a passerby, comfortable in his self-imposed exile” (Engelmann 46).
“Mother Tongue” could be considered one of Simic’s most concise demonstrations of being in exile. As you read the poem, the reader is able to determine that each line “contains at least one object that is essential for the poet’s return to a long-gone domestic scene: “newspaper,” “widow,” “onions and potatoes,” “house,” “ca...
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...ther poems in the collection. Instead, “a “brick wall,” a “spider,” a “fly,” a “web,” “darkness,” a “mirror,” “reverie,” and “a gypsy fortune-teller”” (Atchley 55) is all mentioned. With the title not included, there is no real mention of insomnia and this absence seems extremely important. Since the theme of insomnia is reoccurring throughout the entire collection of poems (it goes from a ballroom of insomniacs to now a full hotel of insomniacs), it is safe to suggest that the theme of insomnia could be much larger in this poem. This could be “a larger vessel in which one encounters opaque or cloudy images: the brick wall, cigarette smoke, and reverie. It seems by shifting this figure of insomnia to the title of the poem and also to the title of the book, by making insomnia the container of all poems, Simic invites or seduces us into his poetic world” (Atchley 56).
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