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Walking the Black Cat

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  628 ratings  ·  46 reviews
In this latest collection of poems, Charles Simic, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, brings us startling new visions of the haunted landscape that has been his oeuvre, where the surreal and the mundane, the sacred and profane, are indistinguishable, a world where "everything is teetering on the edge of everything/With a polite smile." A man waits at a bus stop for t ...more
Kindle Edition, 98 pages
Published October 17th 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 1996)
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really liked it 4.00  · 
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Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ted by: s.penkevich, Praj
Philosophy is for the young. Poetry is for the aged.

I said that.

4 1/2

Well, for anyone who didn't catch the Dylan references (including the three words above) ... Not so far-fetched now, okay? And who was being complimented most? Maybe it was Charles, ...

Charles Simic. Pulitzer Prize winner, twice a finalist for the award. US Poet Laureate 2007-2008. MacArthur fellow. And so on. Serbian-American b. 1938. Six years older than I.

... not Bob.

Bob Dylan. Nobel Prize winner (2016), eleven Grammy Awar
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: with-a-beat

The bearded old man on the corner
The one drinking out of a brown paper bag
The one who declares himself
The world’s greatest ventriloquist,
We are all his puppets, he says
When he chooses to say anything...........

The street ventriloquist frightens the songbirds with his ascending voice booming as he reads the ghostly script printed on the sun-struck window, the lost authenticity of man. The empty cardboard box flies across the crowded boulevard, the language of humanity latching on a destitute like
Ryan  Smith
Feb 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book Charles Simic is both maestro and ethnographer of one surreal geography after another alongside moments of the personal, sublime quotidian. The overall gesture of the book seems one as comfortable with the absurd as well as the pastoral, Simic constantly limning both everyday moments and nightmares at constant risk of becoming hilarious. While never quite cynical, the speaker of these poems feels slightly haggard with experience and knowing, a speaker that's been around the block a ...more
Wardah Beg
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, absurdism
I haven't felt this uneasy after reading a book as I am now. Am I hallucinating? This is absurd.
Or is it? Nothing feels so now, when you've read this. I hope it doesn't stay so for long.
(Moses wore a false beard and so did Lincoln.
X reproduced the Socratic method of
interrogation by demonstrating the ceiling's ignorance.
"They stole the secret of the musical matchbook from me," confided Adam.
"The world's biggest rooster was going to make me famous," said Eve)
~Relaxing in A Madhouse
Rachel Smalter Hall
Charles Simic, who says that he wants to write poetry that even garbage men will understand, guides us in Walking the Black Cat through a surreal landscape inhabited by street side ventriloquists, magicians, ghosts, dwarves and monkeys with the grace and aplomb of a 66 year old Yugoslavian ballerina. But if you ask Simic, he’ll deny that the characters in his poems are surreal. Claiming to be a “hard-nosed realist,” he says that he merely eavesdrops on the homeless and the mad to come up with hi ...more
Nov 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 5-stars, colors
dear charles simic,
i love you. i love your name.
i love your hair. i love your trousers.
do you even have hair?
and do you have a glottal stop?
i'll love that, too.
Ben Niespodziany
Simic does not disappoint. I find that I enjoy his writing most often when he is incredibly brief (like in the three line poem “First Day of Summer”) and/or lengthy (like in the three page poem “The Emperor”, my favorite of this collection).
Dec 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caterina by: S. Penkevich
Between one and five a.m. when everyone else in the neighborhood is asleep except the other insomniacs, these poems come alive. Some of them recall nights of dreams so bizarre and intense they qualify as life events. Others resonate on a lazy Sunday afternoon, when my husband and I brew coffee and sit quietly reading. Then, I’m intoxicated by the short, sexy little poems hidden the middle of the volume, celebrating life’s moments of bliss. Some poems that I didn’t initially “get” have later sudd ...more
Tammy Marie Jacintho
I'm not sure I like him—this voice in his poems. But then again, I certainly don't dislike him—I've read three of his books... And I'm sure I'd read another, if given the chance.

It's more like the voice eludes me, and because I keep chasing it and I want it to be serious I'll never stop chasing it. I'll never pin it down.

Maybe, I am skeptical about the boon he brings back from these corrupt shadows that he unveils and then veils like mirrors. He has so many mirrors: mirrors in a whorehouse, or
David Ranney

Today we took a long walk in the forest.
There we met a couple walking
Arm in arm with eyes closed.
The forest is a dream you had
When you were little, they told us.
Then the two of them were gone.

Even in the afternoon the narrow path
Was busy with shadows.
They had many dark secrets among them,
The trees did.
Shhhh is all we kept hearing.
The leaf we plucked and held in our hands
Appeared genuinely frightened.

The night threw open its birdcage.
The trees pretended to protect us.
In a fit o
Dec 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had heard of Charles Simic, but not previously read any of his poetry collections. I picked up this one, as almost always, from the Nashville Public Library.

There is a Hemingway style to Simic's writing, in terms of simple words, short phrases, almost all poems < 1 page. The poems frequently start out with a readily understandable setting, and then swerve into the abstract. Sometimes this works well...other times, not so much. I especially like how many of the poems embrace paradoxes. This
Robert Beveridge
Jan 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cle-pub-lib, finished
Charles Simic, Walking the Black Cat (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1996)

Pulitzer Prizewinning author Charles Simic is to dada what Clayton Eshleman is to surrealism; he's pretty much the sole light keeping it alive in the world of poetry in the present day. Simic, a hardcore imagist, is wonderfully precise in his use of concrete detail, which he then pulls completely out of the realm of reality by juxtaposing things which have no business being next to one another. Walking the Black Cat, a finalis
Nov 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed most of these poems, especially the first and last few. The imagery is dark and surreal, but some of the poems were too cerebral for my taste. Most were also missing any sort of music or cadence, which I typically prefer. "Mirrors at 4:00AM" and "Father of Lies" were my favorite.
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
So strange and great. So great.
Mar 01, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
I like surreal, but this is bad surreality, like to the point of fishsticks laughing songbird Jesus rhinos.
Nathan Albright
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: challenge-2018
When beginning this book, I already knew that I would like it because quite a few of its poems, including the incomparable "Have You Met Miss Jones," were in a previous compilation of the poet's that I had read.  Even so, the rest of the poems in this collection, if they do not quite reach the level of that poem, at least are close enough to it in quality that the book is an immensely worthwhile one in the Simic canon [1].  That is not to say that these poems vary a great deal in terms of the th ...more
Tricia Barker
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Charles Simic is one of my favorite poets. Memory and premonition play a role in many of the poems in this collection. In fact, a longing for happiness is personified in one poem as a woman who can't be identified in a particular picture from childhood. Happiness is elusive, and love is elusive, surreal, dreamlike in many of these poems. There are many eccentric, extraordinary moments in this collection. Simic inspires me....I hope he inspires you too.
Apr 12, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Cutesy and inconsequential. Read 'What the Gypsies Told My Grandmother While She Was Still a Young Girl', 'Ghosts' and 'The Road in the Clouds'. The other poems in this collection, at their best, made little impact on me, and otherwise had a tendency to irritate.
Brendan Brady
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a tad curmudgeon-y, but i greatly enjoyed the dips into surreal imagery. softspoken and emotional poems.
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simic is too underrated for such a wonderful poet, this book hooked me in from the first poem.. just beautiful..
Dragan Nanic
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading the New and Selected Poems: 1962-2012 I was particularly touched by the selection of poems from the book at hand, so I decided to buy it and read whole. I didn't regret, au contraire :)

From the title onwards there spring a plethora of extremely vivid images, carrying connotations of bad luck but never despair, of tough times and poor living but never without at least a remembrance of happiness, of ordinary items but with unordinary meanings.

The main protagonist in poems is a perfect exa
2014: Powerful words, in just the right moment. Each poem conveys so much of a moment. Now 10 years older after the last read, these pictures dance in my brain, as if built non-stop in my subconscious since. They are crisp and clear and mine as much as Simic's. This is what poetry is- as much a form of art for the reader in the moment as for the writer when approaching the page. Still so striking.

2004 wrote: I bought this book used, years ago. I might have flipped through it in middle School, bu
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simic's poems are surreal and playful, sublime and prophetic. I loved this collection and was reminded of Dylan, the Beat poets, Beck, Aesop Rock, and a host of my favorite word-salad makers. Singular and well worth checking out. Anxious to read more. Published 20 years ago, but of the moment. This one, one of the last in the collection, could have been written today.
A poem for a president...

'The Emperor'

Wears a pig mask
Over his face.

Sits in a shopping cart,

A red toy trumpet in one hand,
A live
Rating: I was disappointed with this one. He has the imagination to come up with some intriguing scenarios, but then he doesn't develop them.

I'm smoking a cheap cigar,
Playing poker with a scar-faced killer
And a fat woman with a husky voice.

- "Roach Motel"

I thought I could see one shadowy passenger
Raising his pale hand to wave to me
Or to put a watch to his ear,
While I stretched my neck to hear the tick.

- "Late Train"

The Garden of Eden needs weeding,
And the soda machines don't work.

- "The Emperor
Apr 18, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While not my favorite poet, though he certainly does have quite a few pieces that resonate with me, Simic is a poet I really, really admire. His work is exceptionally well-crafted. Not a word or punctuation mark is wasted. I've read here some reviews that call his work unapproachable and mention its dadaism, and I guess all those are true, but none of those terms came to me when I was thinking about my review. He's an amazing wordsmith, an amazing poetic artist. He can really craft one hell of p ...more
Cbricephd brice
Aug 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you read this tiny collection, you will discover why Simic is the poet laureate of the U.S.
Pay special attention to, "What The Gypsies Told My Grandmother When She Was Still A Young Girl."
The imagery is breathtaking. Sample:
"War, illness, and famine with make you their favorite grandchild./ You will be like a blind person watching a silent movie./ You will chop onions and pieces of your heart into the same hot skillet./...You will envy every ant you meet in your life and every roadside weed..
Michael P.
A superior book of poetry, but too often obscure for my taste. We find this great couplet in the poem, "The Anniversary."

"There's the Bowery
Where the dead are never buried."

That wonderfully evokes several things about New York's Bowery district. Unfortunately, this is proceeded by these two lines."

"There's the Brooklyn Bridge
Like an Archer's Quiver."

I have no idea what these lines mean. This happens far too often in this book.
Jul 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
The poet moves from the ordinary to the bizarre,from sweet sentimentality to understated horror, from the pleasantries of city life to romantic daydreams or historic nightmares, hitting on just the right details in a series of engaging vignettes, light on humor or sadness, always in control of his emotions but perhaps not his imagination, which shows up in “mirrors at 4 a.m.” or dark window panes.
Donald Armfield
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Charles Simic takes imaginary events to whole new image. I can't get enough of this guy.....


-Dark Corner
-Emily's Theme
-Cameo Appearance
-Le Dame e i Cavalieri
-What the Gypsies Told my Grandmother......
-Winter Evening
-Meditation in The Gutter
-Collector's Tweezers
-The Great Picnic
-My Progress on Stilts
-The Anniversary
Aug 08, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: living-library
I read this series of poems a while ago and recommend it to Andy. Yesterday Simic became the poet laureate. He is more serious then Billy Collins but not as popular or approachable. I still have an image of children in the yard around a fire burning in the barrel.
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Charles Simic (born Dušan Simić) is a Serbian-American poet and the 15th Poet Laureate of the United States. He is co-Poetry Editor of the Paris Review. Simic is the 2007 recipient of the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets. This $100,000 (US) prize recognizes outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.