In his article Writers Should Look for What Others Don’t See, Joe Fassler highlights key points in his interview with the Serbian-born poet Charles Simic:
“To me, the ideal poem is one a person can read and understand on the first level of meaning after one reading. An accessible quality, I think, is important. Give them something to begin with. Something that seems plain and simple but has something strange—something about it that’s not quite ordinary, that will cause them to do repeated readings or to think about it. The ambition is that, each time they read, they will get to another level of the poem. This fearsome little 10- to 15-line poem becomes something like this poem of Whitman’s, which the reader wants to read over and over again.” – Charles Simic
A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim
by Walt Whitman
A sight in camp in the daybreak gray and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air the path near by the hospital tent,
Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there untended lying,
Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woolen blanket,
Gray and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.
Curious I halt and silent stand,
Then with light fingers I from the face of the nearest the first just lift the blanket;
Who are you elderly man so gaunt and grim, with well-gray’d hair, and flesh all sunken about the eyes?
Who are you my dear comrade?
Then to the second I step—and who are you my child and darling?
Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming?
“My fantasy goes like this: a reader, in a bookstore, browsing in the poetry section. They pull out a book and read a few poems. Then they put the book back. Two days later they sit up in bed at four o’ clock in the morning, thinking—I want to read that poem again! Where’s that poem? I’ve got to get that book. ” – Charles Simic