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“new to you” poetry gong, day 5

October 17, 2010

Ted Kooser was poet laureate 2004-2006. Though I wrote lots for work before that, 2004 marked the time I returned to creative writing, focusing almost immediately on poetry. When his Poetry Home Repair Manual came out in 2005, I snatched it up (I should re-visit it now to see what I need to pay more attention to).

So that’s how I knew Ted Kooser, by his poetry manual. I hadn’t read his poems until I started reading The Poets Laureate Anthology and writing for this poetry gong for Big Tent Poetry.

It’s funny, after my confessions yesterday, to open to Ted Kooser’s page and read this first (a quote from Kooser): “I detest elitism of any kind.” He also says, “The reader I am interested in is the average person on the street.” The introductory text echoes that, telling us that Kooser “strives for clarity and accessibility,” and that he uses “common images” from “rural Nebraska” with “surprising metaphor.”

If that sounds too easy or simple, it’s not. It’s quite stunning. Here are the opening lines from “A Jar of Buttons,”

This is a core sample
from the floor of the Sea of Mending.

I love how his titles — like “A Jar of Buttons” — fall right in line with this straightforward approach to poetry. I often feel like I have to come up with clever titles. But Kooser’s “So This Is Nebraska,” My Grandfather Dying,” “Highway 30,” “The Fan In The Window,” “December 15,” “At the Cancer Clinic,” “Tattoo” and “Grasshopper” get the job done.

Here is my attempt at a poem inspired by Ted Kooser (I thought of this metaphor while I was watching the lobsterman in Linekin Bay; not sure if it works yet as I’ve drafted it, but I do hope it’s surprising):


He begins his shopping at dawn.


Today is Day 5 of the 7-day effort. Go here to see who else made it to Day 5.

  1. October 17, 2010 4:05 pm

    I love this!

  2. October 18, 2010 5:12 am

    I really like the human attributes given to the boat; all of the first stanza. The lobster metaphor, the idea of an assembly line, is surprising but, for me, is less convincing.

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