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Library of Congress announces Immigrant Charles Simic to win Pulitzer Prize

The Library of Congress announced a new Pulitzer Prize laureate poet, living in Strafford. Charles Simic, an immigrant from Yugoslavia who learned English as a teenager is going to take the place of Donald Hall of Wilmot who said Thursday he agreed with Simic's selection.

The poet laureate program promotes poetry across the United States.

Simic taught at the University of New Hampshire for 34 years before moving to emeritus status. He won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1990 for his book of prose poems, "The World Doesn't End." He also is an essayist, translator, editor and professor emeritus of creative writing and literature.

"When you read it, you feel like he's talking to you," Marilyn Hoskin, dean of the college of liberal arts at UNH, said of Simic's work. "Whatever the subject matter - a cat walking at midnight or a view from Serbo-Croatia - someone is there telling you something beautifully phrased."

Simic was born in Yugoslavia in 1938, and his childhood was disrupted by World War II. He moved to Paris with his mother when he was 15 and joined his father in New York a year later, in 1954. He has been a U.S. citizen for 36 years.

"I am especially touched and honored to be selected because I am an immigrant boy who didn't speak English until I was 15," he said.

Simic graduated from the same suburban Chicago high school as Ernest Hemingway, where he started writing poetry in high school to attract girls, he said.

Simic's first collection, "What the Grass Says," was published in 1967. It was noted for its surrealist poems.

Simic is known for short, clear poems. His poem "Stone" often appears in anthologies. It begins: "Go inside a stone / That would be my way. / Let somebody else become a dove / Or gnash with a tiger's tooth. / I am happy to be a stone..."

"He handles language with the skill of a master craftsman, yet his poems are easily accessible, often meditative and surprising," Librarian of Congress James Billington said in a news release.

Simic's awards include the Edgar Allen Poe Award, the PEN Translation Prize and awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2000 and received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Also on Thursday, Simic received another honor, the 14th annual Wallace Stevens Award, a $100,000 (EUR 7,300) prize from the Academy of American Poets for "outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry."

He married fashion designer Helen Dubin in 1964. The couple has two children.

Simic takes up his duties as poet laureate with a speech at the library's National Book Festival on Sept. 29 and a reading of his work Oct. 17 at the library's annual literary series.