American Life in Poetry

American Life in Poetry: Column 212

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

We've published this column about American life for over four years, and we have finally found a poem about one of the great American pastimes, bowling. "The Big Lebowski" caught bowling on film, and this poem by Regan Huff of Georgia captures it in words.

Occurrence on Washburn Avenue

American Life in Poetry: Column 211

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

Some of you are so accustomed to flying that you no longer sit by the windows. But I'd guess that at one time you gazed down, after dark, and looked at the lights below you with innocent wonder. This poem by Anne Marie Macari of New Jersey perfectly captures the gauziness of those lights as well as the loneliness that often accompanies travel.

From the Plane

It is a soft thing, it has been sifted
from the sieve of space and seems
asleep there under the moths of light.

American Life in Poetry: Column 210

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

My father was the manager of a store in which chairs were strategically placed for those dutiful souls waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting for shoppers. Such patience is the most exhausting work there is, or so it seems at the time. This poem by Joseph O. Legaspi perfectly captures one of those scenes.

At the Bridal Shop

American Life in Poetry: Column 209

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

I've gotten to the age at which I am starting to strain to hear things, but I am glad to have gotten to that age, all the same. Here's a fine poem by Miller Williams of Arkansas that gets inside a person who is losing her hearing.

Going Deaf

No matter how she tilts her head to hear
she sees the irritation in their eyes.
She knows how they can read a small rejection,
a little judgment, in every What did you say?

American Life in Poetry: Column 208

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006
To have a helpful companion as you travel through life is a marvelous gift. This poem by Gerald Fleming, a long-time teacher in the San Francisco public schools, celebrates just such a relationship.

Long Marriage

You're worried, so you wake her
& you talk into the dark:
Do you think I have cancer, you
say, or Were there worms
in that meat
, or Do you think
our son is OK
, and it's
wonderful, really—almost

American Life in Poetry: Column 207

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

People singing, not professionally but just singing for joy, it's a wonderful celebration of life. In this poem by Sebastian Matthews of North Carolina, a father and son happen upon a handful of men singing in a cafe, and are swept up into their pleasure and community.

Barbershop Quartet,
East Village Grille

American Life in Poetry: Column 206

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

Ah, yes, the mid-life crisis. And there's a lot of mid-life in which it can happen. Jerry Lee Lewis sang of it so well in "He's thirty-nine and holding, holding everything he can." And here's a fine poem by Matthew Vetter, portraying just such a man.


Wild Flowers

At fifty-six, having left my mother,
my father buys a motorcycle.
I imagine him because
it is the son's sorrowful assignment
to imagine his father: there,

American Life in Poetry: Column 205

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

Memories have a way of attaching themselves to objects, to details, to physical tasks, and here, George Bilgere, an Ohio poet, happens upon mixed feelings about his mother while slicing a head of cabbage.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

American Life in Poetry: Column 204

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

Memories form around details the way a pearl forms around a grain of sand, and in this commemoration of an anniversary, Cecilia Woloch reaches back to grasp a few details that promise to bring a cherished memory forward, and succeeds in doing so. The poet lives and teaches in southern California.

Anniversary

American Life in Poetry: Column 203

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