Louis Simpson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who told characteristically American tales of common people and often cast a skeptical eye on the American dream, died on Friday at his home in Stony Brook, N.Y. He was 89.
His death was confirmed by his daughter, Anne Simpson. Mr. Simpson had Alzheimer’s disease and had been bedridden for some time. He taught at the State University of New York at Stony Brook for many years.
Mr. Simpson sought the poetry in everyday life, writing in a simple, unadorned style with specifically American settings. The poet and critic Edward Hirsch called him “the Chekhov of contemporary American poetry.”
“It’s complicated, being an American,” Mr. Simpson wrote in the poem “On the Lawn at the Villa.” “Having the money and the bad conscience, both at the same time.”
His collection “At the End of the Open Road,” for which he won the Pulitzer in 1964, painted a grim picture of the American temperament in the last half of the 20th century in poems like “In the Suburbs”:
There’s no way out.
You were born to waste your life.
You were born to this middleclass life
As others before you
Were born to walk in procession
To the temple, singing.
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