Louis Simpson was born in Jamaica but emigrated to the United States when he was 17 years old and attended Columbia University. From 1943 to 1945 he was a member of the 101st Airborne Division and fought in France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. He was part of the D-Day invasion where his company was involved in a bloody battle near Carentan – his poem ‘Carentan, O Carentan’ is about the experience of US troops being ambushed there. He took part in the Market Garden and Opheusden campaigns, his company suffered 21 casualties during brutal shelling at Veghel, and at Bastogne 101st Division was surrounded by enemy forces for days in bitterly cold conditions.
This is why the poems of Louis Simpson are so invaluable. They were written by someone who was there. Not that this would guarantee their worth. What does, is that Simpson is a great poet. His war experiences didn’t make him a great poet, but they certainly helped shape the direction his imagination would take in the years following the war. [John Lucas, Second World War Poetry in English, p.172]
After the war Simpson returned to the US and worked as an editor in New York. His first book The Arrivistes was published in 1949. His 1963 collection, At the End of the Open Road, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, has a section called ‘The Fighting in Europe’ which John Lucas describes thus:
Here are to be found a number of poems that seem to me at least as great as anything to have come out of WW1. [Second World War Poetry in English, p. 175]
Louis Simpson’s Poems:
Photograph of Louis Simpson source Poetry Foundation http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/louis-simpson