The Art of Words: Painting the Poems of Charles Simic

The Art of Words: Painting the Poems of Charles Simic

Wednesday, September 25, 2013
painting by John Angelopoulos

One of the paintings by John Angelopoulos inspired by the poems of Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Simic.

Most people have heard the adage about how much a picture is worth. (For those scant few who aren’t familiar, it’s a thousand words.)

The same can be said about paintings. And sometimes, as is the case with the upcoming exhibit at the Dimond Library, words are what actually fuel the art.

“Relaxing in a Madhouse, Paintings by John Angelopoulos, Poems by Charles Simic” opens Friday, Oct. 11, in Milne Special Collection’s Dunleavy Reading Room. On display will be 12 of Angelopoulos’ paintings inspired by the Pulitzer Prize winning poetry of Professor Emeritus and former U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic.

Simic teaches in UNH’s MFA program. Angelopoulos is a painter and sculptor who met the poet at 210 Salon, Angelopoulos’s Portsmouth shop where Simic gets his hair cut.

Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, Simic is known for his surreal, metaphysical poems. His first collection “What the Grass Says” was published 1967. Since then, he has published more than 60 books including “My Noiseless Entourage” (2005); “The Voice at 3 A.M”(2003); “Night Picnic” (2001); “Jackstraws” (1999); “Walking the Black Cat” (1996); “A Wedding in Hell” (1994); “Hotel Insomnia” (1992); “The World Doesn’t End: Prose Poems” (1990); “Selected Poems: 1963-1983” (1990); and “Unending Blues” (1986).

He was Poet Laureate in 2007.

Angelopoulos’ paintings for the exhibit were created based on his interpretation of selections from “The World Doesn’t End,” the collection that won Simic the Pulitzer Prize in 1990. Angelopoulos’ son, Drew, had given him two of Simic’s books as gifts.

“As soon as I read his poems, I wanted to interpret them on a canvas,” Angelopoulos says. “When I approached Charles with that idea, he was very supportive….He told me to choose the poems I wanted; I chose pieces that were filled with wonderful images.”

The result was the 12 paintings that make up “Relaxing in a Madhouse.” The exhibit will be on display through Oct. 26, and can be viewed Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. Simic’s corresponding poems will be displayed as well.

A reception hosted by the College of Liberal Arts will be held opening night, Oct. 11, at 6 p.m. in the Special Collections Gallery, located on level one of Dimond Library. Simic will be on hand to sign copies of his books. His latest “New and Selected Poems, 1962-2012” will be available for $30.

"Dale (Valena, curator of the University Museum) and I embraced the idea of holding the reception in Special Collections because Charlie Simic is a good friend who has entrusted his literary papers to us. In addition, we appreciate the opportunity to emphasize our role in the intellectual and artistic life of the institution," says Bill Ross of the Milne Special Collections.

Register here by Thursday, Oct. 3 to attend the reception. Contact Eileen Laskoski at or 2-4702 with questions.

Read more about the University Museum here.