A Renegade Spirit

If it’s a quick read you want, this isn’t the book for you. If you want a book that you can ponder, absorb and marvel at, then this is the one. It’s no surprise that “The Renegade” by Charles Simic [George Braziller Publishers, $19.95] is such a stunning book — he is, after all, an acclaimed poet (worthy enough to have been chosen U.S. Poet Laureate two years ago), teacher (professor Emeritus of American Literature and creative writing at UNH) and essayist. The book — a collection of essays that explores the lives and work of poets, novelists, artists and playwrights — is so exquisitely written that even the chapter titles are carefully rendered — “When night forgets to fall” and “The power of reticence” among them. With his sturdy guidance, Simic allows even the not-too-familiar-with-poetry reader to enter confidently into his world. (If you are one who was never sure what Dada is, for instance, there’s an easily understood explanation here.) Simic’s title signals his celebration throughout the book of the renegade spirit, including his own. Don’t miss his remembrances and observations of his growing up during WWII in war-torn Serbia. In fact, don’t miss a word of it, period. — Barbara Coles
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