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Louis Simpson


Voices in the Distance
: Selected Poems
By Louis Simpson



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Voices in the Distance

Poetry Book Society Special Commendation

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Louis Simpson has been a leading figure in American letters for more than half a century. Born in 1923 in Jamaica, the son of a lawyer of Scottish descent and a Russian mother, he emigrated to America at the age of 17.

Voices in the Distance is the first selection of his poetry to be published in Britain for over 25 years, drawing on 18 collections, from The Arrivistes (1949) to his final book, Struggling Times, which he published last year at the age of 86. Both timely and personal, Louis Simpson’s poetry dramatises his continuing quarrel with suburban America, as well as his concerns about the direction of an American society struggling to retain its integrity in the midst of widespread challenges and worldwide strife.


'Louis Simpson has perfect pitch. His poems win us first by their drama, their ways of voicing our ways…of making do with our lives. Then his intelligence cajoles us to the brink of a cliff of solitude and we step over into the buoyant element of true poetry’ – Seamus Heaney

'The reputation of one of the great American poets of the late 20th century, Louis Simpson, has always been overshadowed by more famous near contemporaries such as Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. Now Bloodaxe has published a new volume of selected poems by Simpson called Voices in the Distance, which should give him the audience he deserves. The poems are sad and funny and strange – apparently very relaxed, but actually wound up tight. Masterly.' - Andrew Motion, Books of the Year, Scotland on Sunday.

'40 years' worth of work that feels absolutely compelling in its mixture of intensity and relaxation. I first started reading him 30 years ago and now hardly a day goes by without my looking at him again, thinking: how does he do that?' – Andrew Motion, Guardian

'Simpson’s entire oeuvre can be seen as, among other things, a prolonged fight for America – a struggle for everything that it claims to stand for, and for the real goodness at the heart of many of its people, against all things that are mean, stupid, easy or tawdry…For all his mordant wit, he has never lost his ability to see through to the underlying reality of the human heart and the rolling years' – Bruce Bawer, Hudson Review

'It’s pleasant to be in the company of this vigorous humanist, who seems to fathom the importance of experience down to a marvelous, irreducible core. His illuminating, unfussy stories about Russian pogroms, lonely immigrants, belly dancers, “lost souls” and “plain-faced” schlemiels, document a hidden, vanished side of American urban life. What Simpson hears in a rain storm describes his own vision: “Be afraid / and know yourselves” ’ – Frank Allen, Library Journal


Louis Simpson (1923-2012): 'The American Chekhov' tribute on Bloodaxe Blogs


Louis Simpson reads two recent poems

Louis Simpson reads two poems from Struggling Times, his latest collection to appear in the US, 'A New Year's Child' and 'Spot on the Kitchen Floor'. These poems also appear in his first British edition for over 25 years, Voices in the Distance: Selected Poems. Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed Louis Simpson at his home in Setauket, Long Island, in September 2008.

£9.95  paperback 
1 85224 861 0.  176pp. 2010. 



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