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Ted Kooser

Hailed by Dana Gioia as a writer “who has written more perfect poems than any poet of his generation,” Kooser is widely praised for his plainspoken style, his gift for metaphor, and his quiet discoveries of beauty in ordinary things. Reviewing Weather Centralfor Poetry, poet and critic David Baker wrote: “Kooser documents the dignities, habits, and small griefs of daily life, our hunger for connection, our struggle to find balance in natural and unnaturally human worlds.” In announcing his appointment as Poet Laureate, Librarian of Congress James Billington said, “Ted Kooser is a major poetic voice for rural and small town America and the first Poet Laureate chosen from the Great Plains. His verse reaches beyond his native region to touch on universal themes in accessible ways.”

Ted Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa, in 1939. He received his B.A. from Iowa State and his M.A. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

He is the author of a number of collections of poetry, including Flying at Night(University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), Delights & Shadows (Copper Canyon, 2004); Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry (Copper Canyon, 2003) written with fellow poet and longtime friend, Jim Harrison; Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison (2000), which won the 2001 Nebraska Book Award for poetry; Weather Central (1994); One World at a Time (1985); and Sure Signs (1980). His nonfiction books include The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets (University of Nebraska Press, 2005) and Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (University of Nebraska Press, 2002).

His many honors include two NEA fellowships in poetry, a Pushcart Prize, the Stanley Kunitz Prize from Columbia, the Boatwright Prize from Shenandoah, the Pulitzer Prize, and an appointment as U. S. Poet Laureate.

He is a professor in the English Department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He lives on an acreage near the village of Garland, Nebraska, with his wife Kathleen Rutledge, the editor of the Lincoln Journal Star. (American Life in Poetry)

Special thanks to Amy over at A Rural Girl Writes for bringing Ted Kooser to my attention. I had never run across him before, so dropped by PoemHunter.com to read some of his stuff. I loved everything I read! This particular poem left you with a bit of a mystery. Haven’t run across one like this before! Thank you so much, Amy, for the intro.


Abandoned Farmhouse

He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.

A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall
papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves
covered with oilcloth, and they had a child,
says the sandbox made from a tractor tire.
Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves
and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.
And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames.
It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.

Something went wrong, says the empty house
in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields
say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars
in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.
And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard
like branches after a storm—a rubber cow,
a rusty tractor with a broken plow,
a doll in overalls. Something went wrong, they say.


Picture Source: Blue Flower Arts