Vagabond book reviews

The Poetry Home Repair Manual

by Ted Kooser

The Poetry Home Repair Manual cover

In a perfect world, the mundane and the extraordinary would collide, causing radio and television programming to be interrupted with, This is a test of the Emergency Poetry System. Ted Kooser’s poetry would speak of the urgency of the everday, so that the guys blueing up their cues in the pool hall, the families waiting for their laundry to dry at the coin-op, and the kids on the playground might stop a moment, and listen reverently.

Today, from a distance, I saw you
walking away, and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier
slid into the sea. An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands, holding only
a handful of leaves, and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens looked up
for an instant. At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer’s retina
as he stood in the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell. 

– from After Years

Ted Kooser believes the best poetry assumes the reader has a soul.

In a moment, you will return to the regular featured program.  In an actual poetic emergency, your poetry would be filled with cliche, non-specific editorializations, or didactic monologues, Ted Kooser would show you the error of your ways, and lead you gently to the nearest exit. This concludes this test of the Emergency Poetry System.

– CHZ

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