12/14/2015


American Life in Poetry: Column 559
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE


Several years ago, I co-edited an anthology of poems about birds, and I wish I’d had the opportunity to include this one, a delight. J. Allyn Rosser lives in Ohio. Her most recent book is Mimi’s Trapeze (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014).


Pelicans in December

One can’t help admiring
their rickety grace

and old-world feathers
like seasoned boardwalk planks.

They pass in silent pairs,
as if a long time ago

they had wearied of calling out.
The wind tips them, their

ungainly, light-brown weight,
into a prehistoric wobble,

wings’-end fingers stretching
from fingerless gloves,

necks slightly tucked and stiff,
peering forward and down,

like old couples arm in arm
on icy sidewalks, careful,

careful, mildly surprised
by how difficult it has become

to stay dignified and keep moving
even after the yelping gulls have gone;

even after the scattered sand,
and the quietly lodged complaints.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2014 by J. Allyn Rosser, “Pelicans in November,” from Mimi’s Trapeze, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014). Poem reprinted by permission of J. Allyn Rosser and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.
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9/14/2015




American Life in Poetry: Column 547
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE



I’ve seen many poems about the atomic bomb drills that schoolchildren were put through during the Cold War, but this one reaches beyond that experience. John Philip Johnson lives and writes in Nebraska, and has an illustrated book of poems, Stairs Appear in a Hole Outside of Town.


There Have Come Soft Rains


In kindergarten during the Cold War,
mid-day late bells jolted us,
sending us single file into the hallway,
where we sat, pressing our heads
between our knees, waiting.

During one of the bomb drills,
Annette was standing.
My mother said I would talk on and on
about her, about how pretty she was.
I still remember her that day,
curly hair and pretty dress,
looking perturbed the way
little children do.
Why Annette? There’s nothing
to be upset about—
The bombs won’t get us,
I’ve seen what’s to come—
it is the days, the steady
pounding of days, like gentle rain,
that will be our undoing.




We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2014 by John Philip Johnson, “There Have Come Soft Rains,” from Rattle, (No. 45, Fall 2014). Poem reprinted by permission of John Philip Johnson and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

9/07/2015







American Life in Poetry: Column 546
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE


They say that when undergoing cancer treatment, the patient's attitude is all-important. Here Robert King, a poet now living in Colorado, looks with wit and bemusement at his chemotherapy. His most recent book is Some of These Days, (Conundrum Press, 2013).

The Cancer Port

It's called a port, a harbor, haven, home,
a city on the coast of my chest opened
for a passage into my heart—which we say
is where emotions live—and it's embedded,

slipped into a shallow nest of flesh, a bump,
a lump under the skin on the right so
the narrow street can reach the marketplace
of the aorta, receptive to any

incoming ship, needle, boat, barge, unloading
its spices, crates of dates, barrels of poisons,
Etoposide phosphate, amethyst, amaranth,
Cisplatin, amphorae of wine and olives.

I carry it secretly under my skin
because it is easier. I carry
everything under my skin, so lightly
I barely notice, watching from the ramparts

the dangerous rocky anchorage below
where goods and evils, bundled together
and tied, arrive, waiting to be unloaded
and poured out into a welcoming country.

8/31/2015


American Life in Poetry: Column 545
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE


How could we publish a column about American Life in Poetry without including a poem about a high school reunion? This is from Barbara Crooker’s Selected Poems from Futurecycle Press. She lives in Pennsylvania.

25th reunion

A quarter of a century
since we left high school,
and we’ve gathered at a posh restaurant.
A little heavier, a little grayer,
we look for the yearbook pictures
caught inside these bodies of strangers.
Some of our faces are etched with lines,
the faint tracing of a lover’s touch,
and some of our hair is silver-white,
a breath of frost. And some of us are gone.
But he’s here, the dark angel,
everyone’s last lover, up at the microphone
singing Save the last dance for me;
he’s singing a cappella, the notes rising
sweetly, yearningly toward the ceiling,
which is now festooned with tissue flowers,
paper streamers, balloons.
And we’re all eighteen again,
lines and wrinkles erased, gray hairs gone,
our slim bodies back, the perfect editing.
A saxophone keens its reedy insistence;
scents of gardenias and tea roses float in the air
from our wrist corsages and boutonnieres.
No children or lovers have broken our hearts,
it’s just all of us, together,
in our fresh young skin,
ready to do it all over again.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2015 by Barbara Crooker, “25th Reunion,” from Selected Poems, (Futurecycle Press, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Barbara Crooker and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.
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6/29/2015



American Life in Poetry: Column 536
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE


I love short poems, and Wendy Videlock is very good at writing them. This is from her book Slingshots and Love Plums, from Able Muse Press. She lives in Colorado.
A Relevance

One
teeny tiny
worm

making the earth
turn.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2015 by Wendy Videlock, “A Relevance,” from her book of poems, Slingshots and Love Plums, (Able Muse Press, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Wendy Videlock and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
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2/23/2015



American Life in Poetry: Column 518
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE


Several years ago, Judith Kitchen and I published an anthology of poems about birds, and since then I keep finding ones I wished we’d known about at the time. Here’s one by Barbara Ellen Sorensen, who lives in Colorado.

Pelican

Under warm New Mexico sun,
we watched the pelican place
himself down among the mallards
as if he had been there all along,
as if they were expecting the large,
cumbersome body, the ungainliness.
And he, sensing his own unsightly
appearance, tucked his head close
to his body and took on the smooth
insouciance of a swan.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2013 by Barbara Ellen Sorensen from her most recent book of poems Compositions of the Dead Playing Flutes, (Able Muse Press, 2013). Poem reprinted by permission of Barbara Ellen Sorensen and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
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12/01/2014




American Life in Poetry: Column 506
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE


I flunked college physics, and anything smaller than a BB is too small for me to understand. But here’s James Crews, whose home is in St. Louis, “relatively” at ease with the smallest things we’ve been told are all around and in us.


God Particles


I could almost hear their soft collisions
on the cold air today, but when I came in,

shed my layers and stood alone by the fire,
I felt them float toward me like spores

flung far from their source, having crossed
miles of oceans and fields unknown to most

just to keep my body fixed to its place
on the earth. Call them God if you must,

these messengers that bring hard evidence
of what I once was and where I have been—

filling me with bits of stardust, whaleskin,
goosedown from the pillow where Einstein

once slept, tucked in his cottage in New Jersey,
dreaming of things I know I’ll never see.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2013 by James Crews, whose most recent book of poems is The Book of What Stays, University of Nebraska Press, 2011. Poem reprinted from Ruminate Magazine, Issue 29, Autumn 2013, by permission of James Crews and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2014 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
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