Thursday, April 12, 2012

K: Ted Kooser

    Ted Kooser is an awesome contemporary American poet. He was born in Ames, Iowa on April 25, 1939 and his writing, to me, very much reflects the clarity and purpose of his generation.  I find it odd that he was an insurance executive for years apparently while refining and developing his writing skills but that only gives hope to all of us who write at night while we work our day jobs.  He earned an undergraduate degree from Iowa State University and then an MA from University of Nebraska. He served as the United States Poet Laureate from 2004 - 2006 and has been published in a wide assortment of publications.  He has also written twelve full length collections of poetry.  

  His book The Poetry Home Repair Manual is an engaging and useful tool for the wannabe poet (like me).

 Here are two samples of Ted Kooser's work.  I can't say what it is that appeals to me so much about these two poems.  I suppose the shared theme of aging draws me to them as that is on my mind.  I wonder what your impressions are?

A Room in the Past
It’s a kitchen. Its curtains fill
with a morning light so bright
you can’t see beyond its windows
into the afternoon. A kitchen
falling through time with its things
in their places, the dishes jingling
up in the cupboard, the bucket
of drinking water rippled as if
a truck had just gone past, but that truck
was thirty years. No one’s at home
in this room. Its counter is wiped,
and the dishrag hangs from its nail,
a dry leaf. In housedresses of mist,
blue aprons of rain, my grandmother
moved through this life like a ghost,
and when she had finished her years,
she put them all back in their places
and wiped out the sink, turning her back
on the rest of us, forever.


What once was meant to be a statement—
a dripping dagger held in the fist
of a shuddering heart—is now just a bruise
on a bony old shoulder, the spot
where vanity once punched him hard
and the ache lingered on. He looks like
someone you had to reckon with,
strong as a stallion, fast and ornery,
but on this chilly morning, as he walks
between the tables at a yard sale
with the sleeves of his tight black T-shirt
rolled up to show us who he was,
he is only another old man, picking up
broken tools and putting them back,
his heart gone soft and blue with stories. 


  1. Speaking of subjects, about which i know nothing...contemporary poetry, American or otherwise. Thank you for an illuminating post.

    1. YOu are welcome! What is Shakespeare if not poetry? And I know you know a lot about that....

  2. I enjoyed both those poems--and also your take on the letter "K." You're doing such a nice job keeping the alphabet thing fresh! "...the spot where vanity once punched him hard and the ache lingered on." is probably one of my favorite things I've read this week!

    1. I know! I love that line - and also "his heart grown soft and blue with stories"
      or "when she had finished her years, she put them all back in their places"

  3. Hello! These poems were terrific and I'll have to look up more of Ted Kooser's work. Thanks for introducing this wonderful poet!

    Hope you're having a great week and happy A to Z!!

    1. I am having a good week and the closer it gets to the weekend, the better the week is! Thanks for stopping by - now I will go check into your world. He is a wonderful poet, isn't he?

  4. These are beautiful, I can see my grandmother Frances in the first one, and many old guys in the next. I don't usually look for poetry, but this may be the exception.

    1. Heya! Poems can be pretty thoughtful and very accessible. You might go to my website and click on Best Poems, Best Friends for some ohter cool selections (if I do say so myself......)

  5. Thanks for introducing me to Mr. Kooser. I think I could get into his poems because even if I am not in the mood to look deeper, I can still find meaning on the surface. I absolutely love tattoo.

    1. Tatoo is a strong favorite of mine. Why? Hell if I know - it speaks to me?

  6. I really like those two poems. Thanks for putting them up.

    1. You are welcome, Matt! Will you be the tattoo man?

  7. I love Kooser, and I'm currently reading The Poetry Home Repair Manual! I wrote a little about him on my blog on "K" day as well. :)

    Dana, via the A to Z Challenge