Professor Charles Simic awarded the Vilcek Prize

By Kerry Feltner
On April 15, 2011


UNH's own emeritus professor Charles Simic has recently been awarded the 2011 Vilcek Prize, a prestigious honor that celebrates the success of foreign-born artists, scientists and scholars.

"It's a high honor," Simic said.

Simic, a former Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winner, will receive $100,000 and will add this honor to his long list of professional accomplishments. Simic is receiving the Vilcek Prize just after his recent acceptance of the Robert Frost Medal.

According to its website, the Vilcek Foundation's mission "aims to raise public awareness of the contributions of immigrants to the sciences, arts and culture in the United States."

The Foundation was established in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia.

Simic was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and grew up in the midst of World War II. His family immigrated to the United States in 1954.

Poetry has been an important part of Simic's life for 50 years. He started writing in high school after he was introduced to the art of poetry through his friends. 

"Once you find it, you can't give it up. [It's like] a possession you dig out of yourself," Simic said.

Simic's inspiration for writing has been constant.

"In your head you always have inspiration because you are always thinking and remembering," Simic said. "We always have things we return to ... we become obsessed with certain things."

Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost are two of the writers Simic admires most. Although he draws inspiration from other writers, poetry for Simic has always been internally driven.

"I read a lot and get to know things," Simic said. "I keep my eyes and ears open and just write. I don't give up. ... The more you read, the more ambitious you become, and in the [writing] process I hope to discover something unique about myself."

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