I pulled over and called out to him, while being very conscious how ludicrous I sounded, did he by any chance know of a church where there was to be a poetry reading tonight?" The man did indeed tell Simic where the church was, indicating that poetry can serve as a means to uplift and communicate the universality of human experience. Social alienation and isolation that accompanies the immigrant experience can be mitigated by the shared connection within poetry.
Thus, Simic's inspiration derives not just from a disturbing childhood replete with wartime imagery and memories of a Nazi invasion. Simic's poetry places him squarely within the immigrant New World -- a world that is categorically comprised by immigrants. As critics have pointed out, Simic's "disturbing…tragi-comic intensity that leaves the reader suspended between amusement and grief…derives equally from the rigors of daily living," (deNiord 77). "Solitude" is a perfect example of Simic's ability to fuse mundane reality and daily existence with universal themes of loneliness, alienation, and isolation.
In "Solitude," the narrator uses second person as if to create a direct connection with the reader. The narrator is both speaking about himself and also asking the reader to discover a bit of herself in the poem. Creating a poetic bond or relationship has a bit of dramatic irony, as it engages the reader. It also highlights the theme of alienation and isolation, paradoxically by bonding with the reader. The poem is also about the encounter between two lonely neighbors in the same dark urban complex. The narrator describes how you "sit recalling the night / Someone knocked on your door." The following stanza continues, allowing for a thoughtful pause that comes between the knock on the door and the act of opening that door. "You were afraid to open, but when you did, / There she was asking to borrow a candle." Imagery of darkness permeates "solitude." It is actual physical darkness, the kind that requires a candle to dispel. The darkness is also symbolic, as in the dark night of the soul. When you don't have a candle, what can you say in the darkness to the neighbor whose name you do not know? "The two of you stood face-to-face / Between two dark apartments / Unable to think of anything to say / Before turning your backs on each other." The final line has a disturbing message of turning one's back on a neighbor who came for help. Yet there is nothing to keep the two individuals together, in the darkness, which creates the opportunity for intimacy. Faced with the uncomfortable notion of being alone with a stranger in the dark, the individual is much more likely to run back to the comfort of solitude and flea bites. The two individuals described in "Solitude" barely speak. The poet refrains from using quotations, as the narrator is only reflecting on "the time when" the knock came at the door. Using the second person point-of-view rather than the first person also distances the narrator from the actual event, and the person who wants to borrow the candle. Majuk points out that the silence that permeates Simic's work is "an integral part of his poetic understanding of life," (102).
The life of Charles Simic offers keys to understanding the Serbian-American poet's work. Even though, as Mijuk and Simic himself agree, "poetry defies any attempt to be explained completely," an examination of the poet's biographical data reveals themes that emerge clearly in his poetry (6). Simic's experiences as an immigrant in America created the mood of loneliness, alienation, and isolation that is evident in "Solitude."