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on 8 August 2010
'A Wedding in Hell' is one of my favourite collections by Simic for many reasons: one is that it is packed full of great poems,72 poems in an 80-page book, another (the clue is in the first reason) is that I love short poems that have a lot to say, but the overriding reason is the reason I love Simic's work in the first place - exquisite wordplay and a refreshingly unique view of the world. To my mind, all these reasons are amply demonstrated in the deceptively simple opening line of 'Paradise Motel': "Millions were dead; everybody was innocent."

Of course, Simic is great fun as well, and poems like 'Evening Visitor,' 'Heroic Moment,' 'The Secret' (there are two poems with that title; I'm referring to the first) - and 'Crazy About Her Shrimp' in which he notes "While I chop the hot peppers,/ She wiggles her ass/ And stirs the shrimp on the stove." - amply demonstrate that. They also display his attention to detail and the beauty of his juxtaposition of words and precise line breaks. There is nothing accidental about his placement of hot peppers and shrimp in the 'Shrimp' poem, neither is it random that in 'Imported Novelties' the penultimate line in the third stanza is broken after the word "gasoline" to read "...doused with gasoline/ In the moment before the match is lit,". Naturally, these things are expected of a good poet, but there are many good poets who do these things well but fail to move me. A good number of those good poets have been Poet Laureates in both the UK and US, but they haven't made me want to (as Simic instructs Mr. Ant in his Great Expectations-derived poem from this collection, 'This Morning') "Listen to her begin to fall,/ As if with eyes closed,/ Muting each drop in her wild-beating heart." I think the distinction makes Simic a great poet.

Buy this collection, read it enough times to inhabit its nuances - and keep it so you can repeatedly enjoy the pleasures of reading.
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