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This article is taken from PN Review 131, Volume 26 Number 3, January - February 2000.

In Praise of Folly Charles Simic

'Folly is in poor repute even among the greatest fools.'


It's almost the year 2000. All the New York City hotel rooms and fine restaurants are already booked for that New Year's Eve. The astrologers are busy predicting the future, and so are the Pentagon and the CIA. Ancient Babylonian Princesses and Egyptian priests are sending daily messages through the mouths of housewives in Texas and New Jersey. Many strange occurrences are due to take place, we are told weekly in supermarket tabloids: a huge monument to Elvis Presley will be sighted on Mars. Doctors will bring Abraham Lincoln back to life for 99 seconds. Vintage red wines will be made from plastic cups discarded in fast-food restaurants. With a single wire inserted in the ear, we'll be able to tape our dreams the way we tape TV programs on our VCR.

But what about poetry? What will the poets be doing in the next century? You do not have to be a Nostradamus to predict that the poets will be doing exactly what they've been doing for the last three thousand years: howling and kicking about how nobody ever appreciates them.

Here is a thought I had recently while strolling in New York. Out of the blue, so to speak, I remembered Sappho. I had spent the afternoon in a bookstore turning the pages of new books of poetry, and it suddenly occurred to me that ...

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