Remembering Louis Simpson, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet

The author of At the End of the Open Road died this week at the age of 89.

barber_louissimpson_post.jpg
Mercer University

The poet Louis Simpson, whose collection At the End of the Open Road received the 1964 Pulitzer Prize, has died at the age of 89 at his home in Stony Brook, New York. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Simpson served as an army infantryman in World War II before returning to his studies at Columbia University, and went on to teach for many years at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He was the author of many works of poetry, prose, and translation, including The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001 and the memoir North of Jamaica (1972). Here is his poem "Ishi," which appeared in the June 2005 Atlantic.


Ishi, the last of his tribe,
walked out of the forest.
He was dying of starvation.
A home was found for him,
the Anthropology Museum,
and harmless occupations.

He helped the hospital nurses
clean their instruments.
He showed Professor Kroeber
his tools: a pot for cooking,
a rope, a basket,
a bow and arrow.

*

Ishi liked to walk to town
and ride the trolley.
Kroeber took him to the opera.
Instead of watching the show
Ishi turned his chair around
and looked at the crowd.

The first airplane he saw
made exploding noises.
"American man go up
in sky," he said, and laughed,
like an ancient Roman,
not to be astonished by anything.

*

Ishi died of tuberculosis.
He was buried with five arrows,
"some things of a personal nature,"
and left the noisy world
as quietly as he came,
taking the forest with him.

Presented by

David Barber is The Atlantic's poetry editor.

Saving the Bees

Honeybees contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy. A short documentary considers how desperate beekeepers are trying to keep their hives alive.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Entertainment

Just In