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.
******************************

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.
******************************

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.
******************************

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.
******************************

11/24/2014



American Life in Poetry: Column 505
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE


Stuart Kestenbaum is a Maine poet with a new book, Only Now, from Deerbrook Editions. In it are a number of thoughtful poems posed as prayers, and here’s an example:

Prayer for Joy

What was it we wanted
to say anyhow, like today
when there were all the letters
in my alphabet soup and suddenly
the ‘j’ rises to the surface.
The ‘j’, a letter that might be
great for Scrabble, but not really
used for much else, unless
we need to jump for joy,
and then all of a sudden
it’s there and ready to
help us soar and to open up
our hearts at the same time,
this simple line with a curved bottom,
an upside down cane that helps
us walk in a new way into this
forest of language, where all the letters
are beginning to speak,
finding each other in just
the right combination
to be understood.

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 Stuart Kestenbaum, “Prayer for Joy” from Only Now, (Deerbrook Editions, 2014). Poem reprinted by permission of Stuart Kestenbaum 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.
******************************

11/02/2014



American Life in Poetry: Column 493
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE



Stories read to us as children can stay with us all our lives. Robert McCloskey’s Lentil was especially influential for me, and other books have helped to shape you. Here’s Matt Mason, who lives in Omaha, with a book that many of you will remember.

The Story of Ferdinand the Bull


Dad would come home after too long at work
and I’d sit on his lap to hear
the story of Ferdinand the Bull; every night,
me handing him the red book until I knew
every word, couldn’t read,
just recite along with drawings
of a gentle bull, frustrated matadors,
the all-important bee, and flowers—
flowers in meadows and flowers
thrown by the Spanish ladies.
Its lesson, really,
about not being what you’re born into
but what you’re born to be,
even if that means
not caring about the capes they wave in your face
or the spears they cut into your shoulders.
And Dad, wonderful Dad, came home
after too long at work
and read to me
the same story every night
until I knew every word, couldn’t read,
                                            just recite.



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 Matt Mason from his most recent book of poems, The Baby That Ate Cincinnati, Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2013. Poem reprinted by permission of Matt Mason 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.
******************************

10/13/2014




American Life in Poetry: Column 499
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE


To celebrate my 75th year, I’ve published a new book of poems, and many of them are about the way in which we come together to help each other through the world. Here’s just one:
Two

On a parking lot staircase
I met two fine-looking men
descending, both in slacks
and dress shirts, neckties
much alike, one of the men
in his sixties, the other
a good twenty years older,
unsteady on his polished shoes,
a son and his father, I knew
from their looks, the son with his
right hand on the handrail,
the father, left hand on the left,
and in the middle they were
holding hands, and when I neared,
they opened the simple gate
of their interwoven fingers
to let me pass, then reached out
for each other and continued on.

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 ©2012 by Ted Kooser from his most recent book of poems, Splitting an Order, Copper Canyon Press, 2014. Poem reprinted by permission of Ted Kooser 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.
******************************