Reading Room Blog

American Life in Poetry: Column 199

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—

American Life in Poetry: Column 198

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,

American Life in Poetry: Column 197

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:

American Life in Poetry: Column 196

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

American Life in Poetry: Column 195

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

Here is a poem, much like a prayer, in which the Michigan poet Conrad Hilberry asks for no more than a little flare of light, an affirmation, at the end of a long, cold Christmas day.

Christmas Night

Let midnight gather up the wind
and the cry of tires on bitter snow.
Let midnight call the cold dogs home,
sleet in their fur—last one can blow

the streetlights out. If children sleep
after the day's unfoldings, the wheel

American Life in Poetry: Column 194

by Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006
Father and child doing a little math homework together; it's an everyday occurrence, but here, Russell Libby, a poet who writes from Three Sisters Farm in central Maine, presents it in a way that makes it feel deep and magical.

Applied Geometry

Applied geometry,
measuring the height
of a pine from
like triangles,
Rosa's shadow stretches
seven paces in
low-slanting light of
late Christmas afternoon.
One hundred thirty nine steps

Emma Watson: The Watsons Completed

Emma Watson: The Watsons Completed

Aiken's (Eliza's Daughter, 1994) latest work is the completion of an unfinished work by her esteemed and beloved mentor, Jane Austen, entitled The Watsons. Emma and Elizabeth Watson are unmarried sisters struggling to adjust to the grim reality of their socioeconomic status. Their father, a revered parson and a man of great intelligence, does not bequeath adequate provisions for the two women in the event they do not marry.

Jane Austen's Charlotte: Her Fragment of a Last Novel, Completed

Jane Austen's Charlotte

The author of two sequels to Jane Austen novels (The Third Sister and Presumption), Barrett now sets out to complete Austen's last book. When she died in 1817, Austen left behind 11 chapters of a novel chronicling the growth and demise of Sanditon, a town on the southern coast of Sussex. Thomas Parker and his wife have partnered with Sanditon's grande dame, Lady Denham, in an effort to establish the town as a center of tourism competitive with Brighton. A guest of the Parkers, fresh, sharp and level-headed 22-year-old Charlotte Heywood, is the novel's heroine.

Letters from Pemberley

Letters from Pemberley

In this continuation to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, one of the best-loved novels in the English language, Elizabeth Bennet, now Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy and mistress of Pemberley, finds herself in a very different league of wealth and privilege. Writing to her sister, Jane, she confides her uncertainty and anxieties, and describes the every-day of her new life. Her first year at Pemberley is sometimes bewildering but Lizzy's spirited sense of humor and satirical eye never desert her.

Mr. Darcy's Daughters: A Novel

Mr. Darcy's Daughters: A Novel

 Picking up twenty years after Pride and Prejudice left off, Mr. Darcy's Daughters begins in the year 1818. Elizabeth and Darcy have gone to Constantinople, giving us an opportunity to get to know their five daughters, who have left the sheltered surroundings of Pemberley for a few months in London. While the eldest, Letitia, frets and the youngest, Alethea, practices her music, twins Georgina and Belle flirt and frolic their way through parties and balls and Camilla -- levelheaded and independent -- discovers what joys and sorrows the city has to offer an intelligent young woman.