Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Simpson, Louis (1923–2012)
Author:
Schneider, Steven P.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Louis Simpson won the Pulitzer Prize for his collection of poetry At the End of the Open Road in 1964. He has written ten books of poetry, several critical studies, a novel, and an autobiography, and he edited the anthology New Poets of England and America (1957). Born in the West Indies, the son of a lawyer of Scottish descent and a Russian mother, Simpson immigrated to the United States at the age of seventeen. Since 1967 he has taught at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

One of Simpson's best-known poems is "Walt Whitman at Bear Mountain," which first appeared in his collection At the End of the Open Road. In this poem Simpson addresses a bronze statue of Whitman and inquires: "Where are you, Walt? / The Open Road goes to the used car lot" (Open Road 64). Simpson expresses his disappointment here and elsewhere in his work that the American dream and myth, so often expressed in grandiose terms by Whitman, has been tragically corrupted by materialism. In his poetry and prose, Simpson has played an influential role in the ongoing "dialogue" between post-World War II American poets and Walt Whitman.

Bibliography

Lazer, Hank. "Louis Simpson and Walt Whitman: Destroying the Teacher." Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 1.3 (1983): 1–21.

Perlman, Jim, Ed Folsom, and Dan Campion, eds. Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song. Minneapolis: Holy Cow!, 1981.

Simpson, Louis. At the End of the Open Road. Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 1963.

———. The Character of the Poet. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1986.

———. People Live Here: Selected Poems 1949–1983. Brockport, N.Y.: BOA Editions Ltd., 1983.


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