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Posts Tagged ‘fearless poetry reading challenge’

[This review originally appeared on Savvy Verse & Wit on March 18, 2011]

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser won the Pulitzer Prize for Delights & Shadows, which was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2004. Kooser’s poetry is what one would call “accessible” because it doesn’t take much deciphering or pondering to get at least a surface understanding, though some of his poems go much deeper.

Delights & Shadows is a collection of quiet poems touching upon such themes as memory, aging, death, and nature. Kooser obviously spends a lot of time observing his surroundings, and many of his poems bring ordinary objects or simple moments to life. When Kooser looks at the world, he sees things that many of us would miss, and the descriptions of what he sees are fascinating. In “Tattoo,” Kooser describes an old man browsing a yard sale and contemplates his past after he sees a tough-guy tattoo on his arm. In “A Rainy Morning,” he compares a woman pushing herself in a wheelchair to a pianist, writing “So expertly she plays the chords/of this difficult music she has mastered” (page 15).

Kooser manages to say so much in just a line or two. In “Father,” remembering his father’s illness, he writes “you have been gone for twenty years,/and I am glad for all of us, although/I miss you every day” (page 36). In “Horse,” he calls a horse “the 19th century” (page 56), which calls to mind civilization’s past dependence on the animal. Other poems compare a pegboard to ancient cave drawings, describe the moment in which a bike rider pedals off, and use a spiral notebook to conjure memories of the past.

Delights & Shadows also includes a couple of narrative poems, poems that tell a story in verse. In “Pearl,” Kooser talks about visiting his mother’s childhood playmate to tell her that his mother has died. My favorite poem in the collection is “The Beaded Purse,” about a man taking home the coffin containing the body of his daughter, who’d left home to pursue an acting career and hadn’t been home in years.

Kooser is a master of quiet observation and finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. In Delights & Shadows, he describes the delights in these simple things, as well as the shadows of the past that these objects and observations conjure up.

Delights & Shadows was published by Copper Canyon Press, which was founded in 1972 and publishes only poetry. The company’s pressmark is the Chinese character for poetry, which stands for “word” and “temple.”

Disclosure: I borrowed Delights & Shadows from Serena to review for Independent and Small Press Month. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon affiliate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Above all, the poets that touch down every year or two in the Library of Congress are the gatekeepers of the American idiom.  …  Some poets believe that original use of language can shape the public imagination and thereby influence public values and policy; to some, the greatest expression of liberty is the ability to stand to the side and observe, dream, remember, and testify.

(from The Poets Laureate Anthology, introduction by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt, pages xlix-l)

The Poets Laureate Anthology, edited by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt with a foreword by Billy Collins, is the perfect collection for poetry lovers, as well as those dipping their toes into the genre.  The book features a handful of poems from each of the 43 U.S. Poets Laureate who have held the position from 1937 to 2010, starting with the most recent poet laureate and working backward.  There is a photo and a short bio of each poet laureate, along with a quote from them.  As Billy Collins (poet laureate from 2001-2003) says in the foreword, the book can be read at one’s leisure and out of order.

One of the most interesting parts of The Poets Laureate Anthology is the foreword by Billy Collins, who talks about how various poets laureate used the position to raise public awareness of poetry or kept out of the public eye, given that they are under no obligation to write poems.  The introduction by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt is equally informative, explaining the history of the position and how the Librarian of Congress — not the President — appoints the poet laureate.  She goes on to say that each poet laureate has made the job his/her own, with their personalities a major factor in how they approach the job.

Schmidt points out that the anthology contains different voices and styles, calling it “a celebration of freedom of speech in motion” (page xlix).  With so many poets and poems to choose from, there is something for everyone in this anthology.  I recognized many of the poets and poems in the book, including Billy Collins, Robert Pinsky, Robert Penn Warren, Gwendolyn Brooks, Maxine Kumin, William Stafford, Robert Frost, and Elizabeth Bishop.  I was delighted to revisit the poetry of Ted Kooser, having recently reviewed his Pulitzer Prize-winning collection Delights & Shadows.  I learned some interesting tidbits about some of the poets, including Louise Glück, who refused to do interviews or public appearances as poet laureate in an effort to “control her words” (page 86).

The Poets Laureate Anthology really is a poetry collection for everyone.  Many people avoid reading poetry because they think it doesn’t speak to them or is too hard to understand, but Ted Kooser, for instance, writes poetry for the average person.  At over 700 pages, the anthology is comprehensive enough that I am confident anyone could peruse the book and find at least one poem that would change their views about poetry.  After all, as Schmidt says in the introduction, “…the only official job in the arts in the United States is for a poet” (page xlv).

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Poets Laureate Anthology from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, LLC, for review purposes. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Rather than take a break from blogging while on maternity leave, my good friend Serena decided to host Celebrating Indie & Small Press Month on Savvy Verse & Wit.  (She’s a Super Mom already!)

Of course, I was more than happy to take part!  Check out my guest review of a brilliant poetry collection, Delights & Shadows by Ted Kooser, which also is my first book for Serena’s Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge.

I didn’t know what to read for my guest review, so Serena pulled a few poetry books off her shelves and told me to choose.  I was drawn to Kooser’s book right away, but I must admit I was a bit intimidated when I realized it was a Pulitzer Prize winner.  Well, Serena says I must be fearless about reading poetry, so I gave it my best shot.  I hope you’ll hop over to Serena’s blog to read my guest review!

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Serena is asking us to give poetry a chance in 2011 by hosting the Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge.  I’m no stranger to poetry, but I don’t read it as often as I’d like, so I thought I’d give myself an excuse to dust off some poetry books and give them a try.  It’s almost impossible to fail this challenge because all you have to do is read 1 poetry book, even if you don’t completely “get” it.

I pulled a handful of poetry books off my shelves, and while I hope to read all of them for the challenge, I’m going to commit to reading at least one.  Here’s my list:

Holocaust Poetry compiled by Hilda Schiff

The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry edited by Jon Silkin

Mountain Intervals:  Poems From the Frost Place, 1977-1986 edited by Donald Sheehan

Plath:  Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets by Sylvia Plath; poems selected by Diane Wood Middlebrook

Frost:  Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets by Robert Frost; edited by John Hollander

I hope you’ll give poetry a chance in the new year, too!

Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate.

© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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