2003 National Book Award Finalist: Poetry

Louis Simpson

The Owner of the House:
New Collected Poems 1940-2001

BOA Editions, Ltd.


About the Book

The struggle with day-to-day American life, set against the backdrop of larger and weightier social issues, takes center-stage in this collection. The earlier poems, which concern themselves primarily with the experience of the World War II soldier, balance morbid subject matter with rhyme and sing-song rhythm, while the later work is characterized by even-lined, unrhymed verse. Read chronologically, the collection is a tale of increasing self-knowledge and personal discovery.

About the Author

The son of a Scottish lawyer and Russian mother, Louis Simpson was born in Jamaica, West Indies in 1923. After immigrating to the United States at 17, Mr. Simpson studied at Columbia University and served active duty in the 101st Airborne Division. Returning from the war, he completed his studies at Columbia and then moved to France, where he published his first book of poems, The Arrivistes (1949). Mr. Simpson went on to write a novel, an autobiography, memoirs, literary criticism, and 18 volumes of poetry. Mr. Simpson was a National Book Award Finalist in 1964 for At The End of the Open Road, in 1966 for Selected Poems, and in 1973 for Adventures of the Letter I. He lives in Stony Brook, New York.

Selected Backlist

Adventures of the Letter I
The Arrivistes

At The End of the Open Road
The King My Father's Wreck: A Memoir
Selected Poems

Ships Going into the Blue
There You Are


After a Light Snowfall

On a day when snow has fallen
lightly, sprinkling the ground,
and a flock of small birds
are hopping and flying about,
a poem returns to haunt me.

"As you have wasted your life here in this place
You have wasted it in every part of the world."

I am disturbed by the words
of a man I never knew, who lived
in a country I have never visited.
How is it he knows about me,
and that I have not lived
for the good of others, putting their needs
before my own? That I have not been
a perfect husband and father.
That I have not written a book
that graces every other coffee table,
or made a discovery or invention
that will save lives and relieve human suffering?

How can he say I have wasted my life?
What can he possibly know about me?
And yet I see that he does.