American Life in Poetry

02/01/2010 - 5:11pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

What might my late parents have thought, I wonder, to know that there would one day be an occupation known as Tooth Painter? Here’s a partial job description by Lucille Lang Day of Oakland, California.

Tooth Painter

01/25/2010 - 2:04pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Animals are incapable of reason, or so we’ve been told, but we imaginative humans keep talking to our dogs and cats as if they could do algebra. In this poem, Ann Struthers looks into the mystery of instinctive behavior.

 

Not Knowing Why

01/18/2010 - 10:34am


BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

My grandfather, when in his nineties, wrote me a letter in which he listed everything he and my uncle had eaten in the past week. That was the news. I love this poem by Nancyrose Houston of Seattle for the way it plays with the character of those letters from home that many of us have received.

 

The Letter From Home

01/12/2010 - 5:05pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

The poet Lyn Lifshin, who divides her time between New York and Virginia, is one of the most prolific poets among my contemporaries, and has thousands of poems in print, by my loose reckoning. I have been reading her work in literary magazines for at least thirty years. Here’s a good example of this poet at her best.

 

The Other Fathers

01/04/2010 - 4:10pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

I’m very fond of poems that demonstrate their authors’ attentiveness to the world about them, as regular readers of this column have no doubt noticed. Here is a nine-word poem by Joette Giorgis, who lives in Pennsylvania, that is based upon noticing and then thinking about something so ordinary that it might otherwise be overlooked. Even the separate words are flat and commonplace. But so much feeling comes through!

 

(Untitled)

12/28/2009 - 1:46pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

One of the wonderful things about small children is the way in which they cause us to explain the world. “What’s that?” they ask, and we have to come up with an answer. Here Christine Stewart-Nunez, who lives and teaches in South Dakota, tries to teach her son a new word only to hear it come back transformed.

 

Convergence

12/28/2009 - 1:44pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Many if not all of us have had the pleasure of watching choruses of young people sing. It’s an experience rich with affirmation, it seems to me. Here is a lovely poem by Tim Nolan, an attorney in Minneapolis.

 

At the Choral Concert

12/15/2009 - 2:15pm

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Family photographs, how much they do capture in all their elbow-to-elbow awkwardness. In this poem, Ben Vogt of Nebraska describes a color snapshot of a Christmas dinner, the family, impatient to tuck in, arrayed along the laden table. I especially like the description of the turkey.

Grandpa Vogt’s—1959

12/07/2009 - 11:59am

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Childhood is too precious a part of life to lose before we have to, but our popular culture all too often yanks our little people out of their innocence. Here is a poem by Trish Crapo, of Leyden, Massachusetts, that captures a moment of that innocence.


Back Then

12/07/2009 - 11:55am

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

I love the way the following poem by Susie Patlove opens, with the little rooster trying to “be what he feels he must be.” This poet lives in Massachusetts, in a community called Windy Hill, which must be a very good place for chickens, too.

Poor Patriarch

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