Charles Simic, an American poet, is the winner of the second edition of the Zbigniew Herbert International Literature Prize. The awards ceremony was held on May 14th, 2014 at the Polish Theatre in Warsaw.
The laureate is a distinguished poet, essayist and translator. He was born in 1938 in Belgrade and has lived in the USA since 1954. He has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and writes articles on Polish poetry in "The New York Review of Books". He is also the author of the introduction to the American edition of “The Collected Prose” by Zbigniew Herbert, translated by Alissa Valles.
, American poet and Herbert Award juror points out that Simic “specializes in tragicomedy, similarly to Zbigniew Herbert. Simic has a keen historical awareness, a sarcastic sense of humor, and a thorough knowledge of the tragedy of the human condition. He speaks out against human venality. His way of attacking a poem has inspired poets world-wide. He also inspires readers because he reminds people of their humanity.”
- This is wonderful news indeed. I am also happy that it reaches me from the country that gave the world so many great poets, many of whom, like Zbigniew Herbert, were of the utmost importance to me personally - Simic said on being awarded the prize.
I first read his poems, translated by Czesław Milosz in 1965, and two years later I met him in New York. Later on we met many times in America and Europe - Simic says about Herbert. - Although I was much younger than him, I spent my childhood in Yugoslavia during World War II and a decade under communism. Because of that, I perfectly understand the vicissitudes of both Herbert’s life and his poems. Herbert developed a very clear language and an excellent connection between seriousness and sense of humor. - said Charles Simic
About the laureate
Charles Simic (Dušan Simić) was born May 9th, 1938, in Belgrade. In 1954 - at age of 16 – he emigrated to the United States with his family. He grew up in Chicago and graduated from New York University. Simic has won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1990) for The World Does Not End. Charles Simic is also the author of articles on Polish poetry in The New York Review of Books and the introduction to the American edition of The Collected Prose, written by Zbigniew Herbert and translated by Alissa Valles .
He published his poems (written in English from the beginning) as early as the late 50s, though the first volume of his poems What the Grass Says did not appear in print until 1967. In his works, Simic manages to achieve a unique combination of surreal imagination (enabling him, for example, to discover the hidden life of such objects as a spoon or fork), sensitivity to the odd and obscure nature of the world, intense irony and a witty sense of humour, with the memory of historical events, affection towards his fellow man and clear expression. – a profile of the poet
Many of Simic’s poems, in the pictorial or thematic sphere, might not have been born, had they not been called to life by a concrete American reality that represents but one side of an inventiveness that permeates all his creative output, based on opposites. The other side composed of works born from an East European context, of our hero’s childhood of war and occupation. The specificity, originality, intelligence, wit and force of expression of Simic’s poetry are pre-eminently determined by reference to the realities of America and Eastern Europe that “do not speak separately but in a mutual union”, born of “an American consciousness and an East European subconsciousness. - as his Polish translator Stanisław Barańczak wrote
This year's winner was selected by a jury which included: Lidija Dimkovska (Macedonia/Slovenia ), Edward Hirsch (USA), Michael Krüger (Germany), Jarosław Mikołajewski (Poland), Agneta Pleijel (Sweden), Jaume Vallcorba Plana (Spain), Tomas Venclova (Lithuania / USA). More about the judges here ...
About the Herbert Prize
The aim of the Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award is to recognize outstanding artistic and intellectual literary achievements on the world stage which have a bearing on the world of values towards which Zbigniew Herbert’s work gravitated.
The Award also aims to promote Poland’s cultural contribution—particularly in the field of poetry—to the development of world literature as manifested in the exchange of ideas, values, and contemporary experiences – as we read on the Herbert Prize website.
The Award is given annually to a living author for achievements in the field of poetry, for the entirety of his or her creative output. The Board can also decide to give Awards in the additional categories of essays, translation and editing.
The Award ceremony was held on 14th May 2014 at the Polish Theatre in Warsaw.
Culture.pl is a partner of the International Literary Zbigniew Herbert Prize.
Source: organizator press materials, 10.3.2014, ed. mg, translated: Katarzyna Maksimiuk, 11.03.2014