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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 267, Volume 49 Number 1, September - October 2022.

Cover of No Land in Sight
M.C. CaseleyCharles Simic, No Land in Sight (Knopf) $28.00
This slim collection is Charles Simic’s twenty-third, discounting collected and selected volumes, and we really should know the drill by now: strangely sentient dogs, alarm clocks, a jaunty approach to hell, madness and the afterlife, village idiots, deranged women in cocktail dresses, empty Hopper houses at twilight – a familiar landscape of absurdity in poems becoming ever more minimal. Indeed, the collection opens audaciously with a one-liner, entitled ‘Fate’.

The authorial photograph on the back flap of this collection gives further clues, depicting a sweetly twinkling older man with white hair and round glasses, just a little too attentive. Why, he could be the sinister caretaker of the abandoned gothic pile on the edge of town, beside the train lines.  In ‘My Doubles’, he gives a quick self­portrait:
‘As for me, the last time someone saw me,
I was reading the Bible on the subway,
Shaking my head and chuckling to myself.’

The valedictory tone of recent volumes such as 2017’s Scribbled in the Dark continues here, although serious chuckling remains, as does a tone which manages to seem casual, tossed-off, shruggingly demotic – a surface charm strikingly at odds with often apocalyptic asides and insights. This darkness is often dramatised in the disconcerting similes and images: empty clothes hangers click ‘like knitting needles / or disapproving tongues’ (‘Tango’), lovers ‘ducking like ducks / in the shooting gallery’ (‘In the Amusement Park’) and all the while, the armless alarm clocks keep ticking. Taken together, there is a sense of foreboding, lit by flames flickering in the distance.


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