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American Life in Poetry

06/22/2010 - 1:23pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Alicia Suskin Ostriker is one of our country’s finest poets. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey. I thought that today you might like to have us offer you a poem full of blessings.

The Blessing of the Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog

To be blessed
said the old woman
is to live and work
so hard
God’s love
washes right through you
like milk through a cow

06/22/2010 - 1:21pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Equipment. I like to paint and draw, and I own enough art supplies to start my own store. And for every hobby there are lots of supplies that seem essential. In this poem we get a whole tackle box full of equipment from Michael Sowder, who lives and fishes in Utah.

Fishing, His Birthday

06/07/2010 - 3:59pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Whether we like it or not, we live with the awareness that death is always close at hand, and in this poem by Don Thompson, a Californian, a dead blackbird can’t be pushed out of the awareness of the speaker, nor can it escape the ants, who have their own yard work to do.

Yard Work

My leaf blower lifted the blackbird—
wings still spread, weightless,
floating on the loud, electric wind
almost as if it were alive.

06/01/2010 - 9:58am

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Barnyard chickens, which are little more than reptiles with feathers, can be counted on to kill those among them who are malformed or diseased, but we humans, advanced animals that we think we are, are far more likely to just turn away from people who bear the scars of misfortune. Here’s a poem by Ned Balbo, who lives and teaches in Maryland.

Fire Victim

05/24/2010 - 10:25pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

It is enough for me as a reader that a poem take from life a single moment and hold it up for me to look at. There need not be anything sensational or unusual or peculiar about that moment, but somehow, by directing my attention to it, our attention to it, the poet bathes it in the light of the remarkable. Here is a poem like this by Carolyn Miller, who lives in San Francisco.

 

The World as It is

05/24/2010 - 4:04pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

We are sometimes amazed by how well the visually impaired navigate the world, but like the rest of us, they have found a way to do what interests them. Here Jan Mordenski of Michigan describes her mother, absorbed in crocheting.

Crochet

Even after darkness closed her eyes ?
my mother could crochet. ?
Her hands would walk the rows of wool ?
turning, bending, to a woolen music.

05/10/2010 - 5:39pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

If writers are both skilled and lucky, they may write something that will carry their words into the future, past the hour of their own deaths. I’d guess all writers hope for this, and the following poem by Peter Cooley, who lives in New Orleans and teaches creative writing at Tulane, beautifully expresses his hope, and theirs.

 

The One Certain Thing

05/04/2010 - 12:02pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Here’s a poem by Susan Meyers, of South Carolina, about the most ordinary of activities, washing the dishes, but in this instance remembering this ordinary routine provides an opportunity for speculation about the private pleasures of a lost parent.

 

Mother, Washing Dishes

04/27/2010 - 2:43pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

The great American poet William Carlos Williams taught us that if a poem can capture a moment in life, and bathe it in the light of the poet’s close attention, and make it feel fresh and new, that’s enough, that’s adequate, that’s good. Here is a poem like that by Rachel Contreni Flynn, who lives in Illinois.

 

The Yellow Bowl

04/19/2010 - 2:58pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Tell a whiny child that she sounds like a broken record, and she’s likely to say, “What’s a record?” Jeff Daniel Marion, a Tennessee poet, tells us not only what 78 rpm records were, but what they meant to the people who played them, and to those who remember the people who played them.

78 RPM

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