Reading Room Blog

02/27/2009 - 4:58pm
Talk Before Sleep


Other books by Elizabeth Berg

    The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Small Acts Of Liberation 
A compelling anthology of short fiction, including eleven never-before-published pieces, explores the lives of women breaking free of the convention that controls their lives, in a collection that includes "Returns and Exchanges," "Over the Hill and Into the Woods," and the title story, about a woman who goes on a happiness binge after ditching Weight Watchers.

01/07/2013 - 12:56pm

The Reading Guild meets the third Tuesday of each month at 6:00 p.m. The group's members pick a theme like Shakespeare or travel every other month; the other months are open discussions of your favorite book or current reading. Everyone brings a dish to share! Call the Cooper Branch (804-224-0921) or check our program listing for this month's topic.

02/17/2009 - 3:12pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

To read in the news that a platoon of soldiers has been killed is a terrible thing, but to learn the name of just one of them makes the news even more vivid and sad. To hold the name of someone or something on our lips is a powerful thing. It is the badge of individuality and separateness. Charles Harper Webb, a California poet, takes advantage of the power of naming in this poem about the steady extinction of animal species.

The Animals are Leaving

One by one, like guests at a late party

02/17/2009 - 1:59pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

David Wagoner, who lives in Washington state, is one of our country's most distinguished poets and the author of many wonderful books. He is also one of our best at writing about nature, from which we learn so much. Here is a recent poem by Wagoner that speaks to perseverance.

The Cherry Tree

Out of the nursery and into the garden
where it rooted and survived its first hard winter,
then a few years of freedom while it blossomed,

02/17/2009 - 1:58pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

Don Welch lives in Nebraska and is one of those many talented American poets who have never received as much attention as they deserve. His poems are distinguished by the meticulous care he puts into writing them, and by their deep intelligence. Here is Welch's picture of a 14-year-old, captured at that awkward and painfully vulnerable step on the way to adulthood.

At 14

To be shy,
to lower your eyes
after making a greeting.

to know
wherever you go

02/17/2009 - 1:58pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

Here's a fine poem by Chris Forhan of Indiana, about surviving the loss of a parent, and which celebrates the lives that survive it, that go on. I especially like the parachute floating up and away, just as the lost father has gone up and away.

What My Father Left Behind

Jam jar of cigarette ends and ashes on his workbench,
hammer he nailed our address to a stump with,
balsa wood steamship, half-finished--

02/17/2009 - 1:57pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

I'd guess that most of us carry in our memories landscapes that, far behind us, hold significant meanings for us. For me, it's a Mississippi River scenic overlook south of Guttenberg, Iowa. And for you? Here's just such a memoryscape, in this brief poem by New Yorker Anne Pierson Wiese.

Inscrutable Twist

The twist of the stream was inscrutable.
It was a seemingly run-of-the-mill
stream that flowed for several miles by the side
of Route 302 in northern Vermont—

02/17/2009 - 1:56pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

This column has had the privilege of publishing a number of poems by young people, but this is the first we've published by a young person who is also a political refugee. The poet, Zozan Hawez, is from Iraq, and goes to Foster High School in Tukwila, Washington. Seattle Arts & Lectures sponsors a Writers in the Schools program, and Zozan's poem was encouraged by that initiative.

Self-Portrait

Born in a safe family
But a dangerous area, Iraq,

02/17/2009 - 1:54pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

I suspect that one thing some people have against reading poems is that they are so often so serious, so devoid of joy, as if we poets spend all our time brooding about mutability and death and never having any fun. Here Cornelius Eady, who lives and teaches in Indiana, offers us a poem of pure pleasure.

A Small Moment

I walk into the bakery next door
To my apartment. They are about
To pull some sort of toast with cheese
From the oven. When I ask:

02/17/2009 - 1:53pm

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

One of the most effective means for conveying strong emotion is to invest some real object with one's feelings, and then to let the object carry those feelings to the reader. Notice how the gloves in this short poem by José Angel Araguz of Oregon carry the heavy weight of the speaker's loss.

Gloves

I made up a story for myself once,
That each glove I lost
Was sent to my father in prison

That's all it would take for him
To chart my growth without pictures