The Owner of the House

Louis Simpson’s first collection, The Arrivistes: Poems, 1940-1949 (1949), was published when he was still in his mid- twenties. Over his long and illustrious career, Simpson has established himself as one of the most important American poets to gain prominence during the second half of the twentieth century. His 1963 poetry collection, At the End of the Open Road, rightfully was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems, 1940-2001 includes eighteen poems from his award-winning volume. The theme of “searching” for balance and a spiritual home runs through such poems as “In California” and “Walt Whitman at Bear Mountain.” Simpson’s poems are deceptively simple. There is rarely much bombast from the mountain tops in his poems. It is the quiet resolve found in the poems that touches the heart of each reader. Although born in Kingston, Jamaica, he made it his quest to become fully American.

Over the years Simpson was influenced by poetic fashion, but never a slave to it. As he matured as a poet, Simpson discovered his very distinctive voice and, therefore, discarded all so-called poetic commandments that did not serve his art. He has never hesitated in his poetry to comment on America’s place in the world. On occasion Simpson has lectured his readers to the detriment of his art, but in the poems found in The Owner of the House he makes good use of the wisdom gained over many decades to flesh out his point of view without ever being heavy-handed. His fine heart and immense intelligence shine brightly throughout this extraordinary collection. The Owner of the House was nominated the 2003 National Book Award for poetry.