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.