Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Poet Laureate Ted Kooser

I heard the Poet Laureate Ted Kooser on NPR the other day. I wish I could find that interview though, I found these clips of his interviews.

What stayed with me was his comment about the rewards of poetry. He said he had a poem in Atlantic Monthly magazine recently. It was a 5-line poem and he got $5 per line. A whopping $25.

So, he said because the financial gains aren't there, "poetry is more pure." It's written from true feelings with real intentions.

Actually, this makes much sense to me as I'm struggling with 2 poems. I'm writing them for anthology, which has requirements for theme. I can certainly write a poem on this theme, but I'm not feeling it. So, it's become very dry. Not at all fluid. I feel like the words are bricks that I'm laying on top of each other to form a tall structure. Conforms to the themes, but doesn't serve any purpose to me. A building that doesn't even shelter me.

Anyway, I like Ted Kooser and was fascinated by him during a tv interview. First of all, something about him reminded me of my grandfather, who always encouraged me to read and write. Maybe it was Kooser's round and kind face with prominent ears?

The other thing I liked about him was that he worked for an insurance company for years. He would rise at 5 am and write poetry. Then, proceed with his day.

I don't have any set time for my poetry writing. I tend to squeeze it in during the day. Our weekly production meeting is an excellent time for me to write. Else, if I'm waiting for an an application process to be finish, I'll pull out my notebook or open a Word doc.

It's encouraging to hear this from Kooser; he's an academic now, but that's what I keep worrying about. Must you be in academia to get published?

Enough of my fretting. Enjoy Kooser!


What once was meant to be a statement—
a dripping dagger held in the fist
of a shuddering heart—is now just a bruise
on a bony old shoulder, the spot
where vanity once punched him hard
and the ache lingered on. He looks like
someone you had to reckon with,
strong as a stallion, fast and ornery,
but on this chilly morning, as he walks
between the tables at a yard sale
with the sleeves of his tight black T-shirt
rolled up to show us who he was,
he is only another old man, picking up
broken tools and putting them back,
his heart gone soft and blue with stories.

from Delights & Shadows, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA 2004

Flying at Night

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.

Published in "Flying at Night

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