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Hotel Insomnia

Charles Simic

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Added by: Sean Wayman
There is an element of the mysterious in many of Simic's poems. They have a dream-like or surrealistic quality and this is no doubt inspired in part by the work of thinkers like Jung and Freud who explored the mysteries of the psyche and the relationship of dreams, mythology and the mind.
In the world of this poem a gypsy makes love upstairs and piano music comes through the walls. The figures have an archetypal character that makes them intriguing but rather indistinct. They are heard from another room, just as dream figures seem to come to us from another world.
Themes of isolation and connection run through this poem. We get at times a claustrophobic sense of the hotel, "I liked my little hole/ Its window facing a brick wall." Each guest is locked off in their own little cubicle and yet they overhear each other's lives from the next room despite their isolation. While the narrator is in one sense so isolated he does not even have the company of his own reflection in the dark room, there are also images of spiders capturing flies with webs. This reflects a connection of sorts, however macarbe its connotations. Also some of the details in this poem are surprising intimate. There is something very private about the sound of bare feet and your neighbour urinating! And then at the end of the poem we are pierced with a very powerful moment of empathy. The sound of the child's sob is no near, "I thought, for a moment, I was sobbing msyelf." The poem therefore presents us with a movement from detachment and isolation to empathic identification. The difference between self and other is bridged, at least momentarily, at the poem's conclusion.

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