Journal Article

Charles Simic's Insomnia: Presence, Emptiness, and the Secular Divine

J. Heath Atchley

in Literature and Theology

Volume 17, issue 1, pages 44-58
Published in print March 2003 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online March 2003 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/17.1.44
Charles Simic's Insomnia: Presence, Emptiness, and the Secular Divine

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The poet Charles Simic is obsessed with images. Images are the primary matrix of his poetry, and in that poetry it is the images which perform what he calls a critique of language. This article uses the figure of insomnia—a common image in Simic's poems—to explore the nature of this critique. According to Simic, poetic images change the meaning of meaning: a language that valorises the poetic image is one that does not seek secure signification in order to be valuable. This type of language evokes an asubjective presence that is also an absence, a recognition of a metaphysical emptiness that lies at the limits of consciousness. For Simic, this sense of presence is a secular experience of the divine.

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Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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