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by Ted Kooser
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  • Author:
    Ted Kooser
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    Copper Canyon Press; 1st edition (May 1, 2004)
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    96 pages
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FREE shipping on qualifying offers. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry Ted Kooser, who served as United States Poet Laureate (2004–2006).

FREE shipping on qualifying offers.

Ted Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa, on April 25, 1939. Kooser is the author of twelve known works of poetry. During that same week, Kooser received the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his book "Delights and Shadows" (Copper Canyon Press, 2004). He is former Vice President of Lincoln Benefit Life (An Allstate Company), an insurance company, and lives in land near the village of Garland, Nebraska. He wrote for an hour and a half before work every morning, and by the time he retired, Kooser had published seven books of poetry. Kooser owned a book publishing company, Windflower.

In Delights and Shadows, Kooser draws inspiration from the overlooked details of daily life. Quotidian objects like a pegboard, creamed corn and a forgotten salesman’s trophy help reveal the remarkable in what before was a merely ordinary world. Ted Kooser is the author of eight collections of poems and a prose memoir. He lives on a small farm in rural Nebraska. To read this book, upload an EPUB or FB2 file to Bookmate.

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For more than thirty years, Ted Kooser has written poems that deftly bring dissimilar things into telling unities.

For more than thirty years, Ted Kooser has written poems that deftly bring dissimilar things into telling unities. A gyroscope balanced between a child's hands, a jar of buttons that recalls generations of women, and a bird briefly witnessed outside a window - each reveals the remarkable within an otherwise ordinary world. From the book jacket). Ted Kooser is the current Poet Laureate of the United States.

Ted Kooser is known for his poetry and essays that celebrate the quotidian and . Kooser’s next book, Delights and Shadows (2004) went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Ted Kooser is known for his poetry and essays that celebrate the quotidian and capture a vanishing way of life. Kooser’s first new and selected, Sure Signs (1980) was critically praised.

He is a haiku-like imagist who imbues his poems with "tender wisdom," and draws inspiration from the overlooked details of daily life.

Ted Kooser is one of the nation’s most highly regarded poets and served as the United States Poet Laureate Consultant in. .

Ted Kooser is one of the nation’s most highly regarded poets and served as the United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 - 2006. During his second term he won the Pulitzer Prize for his book of poems, Delights & Shadows (Copper Canyon Press, 2004). A Presidential Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he is the author of twelve full-length collections of poetry.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

Ted Kooser, who served as United States Poet Laureate (2004–2006), is a poet who works toward clarity and accessibility, so that each distinctive poem appears to be as fresh and bright and spontaneous as a good watercolor painting. He is a haiku-like imagist who imbues his poems with "tender wisdom,” and draws inspiration from the overlooked details of daily life.

Praise for Delights and Shadows:

"Ted Kooser...has a genius for making the ordinary sacred."—The New York Times

"A sense of wonder and compassion runs through this Pulitzer Prize winning volume… Kooser's poetry is understated yet manages to skillfully illuminate the small moments of life."—Christian Science Monitor

"[Kooser] brushes poems over ordinary objects, revealing metaphysical themes that way an investigator dusts for fingerprints. His language is so controlled and convincing that one can't help but feel significant truths behind his lines."—The Philadelphia Inquirer

"There is a sense of quiet amazement at the core of all Kooser's work, but it especially seems to animate his new collection of poems, Delights & Shadows. Every delight is shadowed by darkness in this book of small wonders and hard dualisms."—Edward Hirsch, The Washington Post

"Delights and Shadows is a book with a deep stillness at its center, perfectly self-contained."—Carol Muske-Dukes, Los Angeles Times

"Kooser's ninth collection of poems reflects the simple and remarkable things of everyday life. That he often sees things we do not would be delight enough, but more amazing is exactly what he sees. Nothing escapes him; everything is illuminated….Highly recommended."—Library Journal

"Few poets depict the Midwest so accurately or with such tender regard... Kooser excels at the brief, imagistic poem."—The Kansas City Star

"Delights and Shadows raises the voice of the poet above everything else. Each short, vivid poem on the page reads as if it were being spoken aloud. Details about cemeteries, dictionaries, a doctor's waiting room, and a jar of buttons bristle with sound and awareness. Kooser's ability to use brief lyrics to compose a music of discovery and regeneration makes his work radiant and consuming... This is not an extended, complex or experimental kind of writing, but poetry that rings true, allowing the human sound of being to exist on the page."—Bloomsbury Review

"Here is the gift and fragility of life."—The Wichita Eagle

"Kooser is a master of the subjective description. Empathetic without sentimentality, his eye ranges over all sorts of everyday subjects and finds material everywhere… wherever the unpredictable particularity of the world can be glimpsed… Perhaps Kooser’s success lies in his determination to see the… things of this world with such clarity and passion that their underlying mysteries, delights, and shadows also become clear, if only for a moment."—The Georgia Review

"You can almost see Kooser behind the poems, watching the world like a sketch artist… Kooser displays the same kind of fluid strokes Degas used in his ballet pictures...He is an exquisite miniaturist of daily life."—The Hartford Courant

"The poet finds magic in activities and objects typically considered mundane... Metaphors are the treasure of these short, imagistic poems, emphasizing the wonder and delight latent in what is often merely taken for granted."—Harvard Review

"Kooser has written more perfect poems than any poet of his generation." —Dana Gioia

"Kooser is straightforward, possesses an American essence, is humble, gritty, ironic and has a gift for detail and a deceptive simplicity."—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

As Poet Laureate of the United States, Ted Kooser launched the weekly poetry column "American Life in Poetry," which appears in over 100 newspapers nationwide. He is the author of ten books of poems, including the collaboration with Jim Harrison, Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry (isbn 9781556591877).

Delights and Shadows is Ted Kooser’s Pulitzer Prize winning collection of poetry published in 2004. It is an outstanding work of poetry in its immediate accessibility, and the beckoning for a return created by the poems. Kooser trusts the power of language, and his writing does not call attention to himself as much as the subject. Yet you leave the book feeling like you’ve met a friend who just shared some great stories with you.

The book is broken into four sections, but I did not find them highlighting a change in continuity or subject. Like many great poets, Kooser looks at the everyday items around us and finds a new way of seeing them. Sometimes this backfires for poets as it can sound like a Seinfeld comedy routine, but Kooser looks more amazed at seeing something familiar for the first time. Whether is a blue, spiral notebook or a necktie, you can hear his surprise.

The Necktie

His hands fluttered like birds,
each with a fancy silk ribbon
to weave into their nest,
as he stood at the mirror
dressing for work, waving hello
to himself with both hands.

Not only do you see Kooser’s new look at an old item here, but you get a glimpse of his sense of humor. In many of the poems you hear the poet chuckling as he tells the story, but he never laughs at people. This is a rare trait in humanity, and it shows us a man who is both wise and humble (an even rarer trait).


The green shell of his backpack makes him lean
into wave after wave of responsibility,
and he swings his stiff arms and cupped hands,

paddling ahead. He has extended his neck
to its full length, and his chin, hard as a beak,
breaks the cold surf. He’s got his baseball cap on

backward as up he crawls, out of the froth
of a hangover and onto the sand of the future,
and lumbers, heavy with hope, into the library.

The balance comes in poems addressing “heavy” topics with a light touch. Not humorous, but not needed to make more dramatic what is already dramatic. Kooser clearly deals with old age in a number of poems, and death is not too far from much of what he writes (although death, alas, does not belong solely to the aged). Having spent time watching my youngest son unsuccessfully battle cancer, I appreciated the “grace” Kooser sees in this poem.

At the Cancer Clinic

She is being helped toward the open door
that leads to the examining rooms
by two young women I take to be her sisters.
Each bends to the weight of an arm
and steps with the straight, tough bearing
of courage. At what must seem to be
a great distance, a nurse holds the door,
smiling and calling encouragement.
How patient she is in the crisp white sails
of her clothes. The sick woman
peers from under her funny knit cap
to watch each foot swing scuffing forward
and take its turn under her weight.
There is no restlessness or impatience
or anger anywhere in sight. Grace
fills the clean mold of this moment
and all the shuffling magazines grow still.

Another interesting set of poems revolves around four Civil War paintings by Winslow Homer. The paintings are not in the book, but Kooser paints them so well you can imagine them. The poems are numbered, but fall under a single title of “Four Civil War Paintings by Winslow Homer.” I find it interesting when art comments on art, and Kooser uses poetry to respond to the paintings. It is not an art critique, but a response to art. He does not examine the brushstrokes as much as the mind behind the paintings. A series of paintings you may walk too quickly by in a museum show their depth when given consideration.

1. Sharpshooter

A Union sniper in a tree

Some part of art is the art
of waiting – the chord
behind the tight fence
of a musical staff,
the sonnet shut in a book.
This is a painting of
waiting: the sharp crack
of the rifle still coiled
under the tiny
percussion cap, the cap
poised under the cocked
curl of the hammer,
and this young man among
the pine needles,
his finger as light as a breath
on the trigger,
just a pinpoint of light
in his one open eye,
like a star you might see
in broad daylight
if you thought to look up.

There is rarely a place to go wrong in opening this book, and it is one worth returning to again and again. For those hoping to attract people into the world of poetry, Kooser is one of those poets that non-poets will “get.”

Kooser also has a wonderful website with some of the poems, media (including nearly an hour of a poetry reading), and some great information. He is a former U.S. Poet Laureate and lives in Nebraska. He also edits the weekly newspaper column, “American Life in Poetry.”
I am new to appreciating poetry. As a fellow Iowan, I was interested in reading some of Ted's work. I think his poetry is approachable and applicable to nearly everyone. Kooser somehow makes me nostalgic for a time that I never experienced. Great book - definitely pick it up if you're curious!
Ted Kooser’s Delights and Shadows won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. This volume of poetry also helped Kooser become a two year Poet Laureate of the United States. Kooser’s poems are easily understandable for all readers. He writes of the ordinary everyday things that we all see and do, but his writing gives these things a little bit of something more. His poems include scenes from nature, garage sales, houses, hospital waiting rooms, and even stores. There is a little something for everyone in this book of poetry.
The simplicity of Kooser’s poetry is perhaps the greatest strength of his book. In the poem “A Spiral Notebook,” he is describing the everyday spiral notebook that anyone at any store would find and buy. However, he then compares the notebook to getting older by saying, “It seems / a part of growing old is no longer / to have five subjects.” He says the elderly are set “instead to stand in a drugstore / and hang on to one subject / a little too long.” He is using the notebook to say that when one is young they have plenty to talk about and do which would fill the five subjects, but as one gets old they lose that ability.
Some of the comparisons Kooser makes are just simply beautiful. In his poem “Rainy Day,” he makes the comparison of a woman pushing her wheelchair in the rain to a pianist playing the piano. His words compare the two and he ends with the woman in the wheelchair, “So expertly she plays the chords / of this difficult music she has mastered, / her wet face beautiful in its concentration, / while the wind turns the pages of rain.”
The beautiful, simple and easily understandable poetry of Kooser’s book makes reading it a pleasure. Anyone who enjoys poetry would enjoy this volume of meaningful everyday poetry. Even people that do not routinely read poetry would find enjoyment in this book from Ted Kooser.
I'm not a poet or even a writer so this is a true layman's review. I enjoy reading poetry but I seldom read some of the more recent poets. That was until I discovered Ted Kooser. He's absolutely terrific. He writes about life as I know it and creates a poem that doesn't require a PhD to interpret. I've now read several of his works and I can say this book and his "Local Wonders" are the best. In fact, his poem "On the Road" is now my favorite modern poem, beating out Billy Collins' "Winter in Utah". Buy the book, you can't go wrong.
Read these no more than two at a time. Reread, and let the pictures form in your head. Taste, smell, listen. Put down the book; come back later for more. That's the best way, I think, to get the nut of these lovely, short poems. Gems of memory.
Each poem of Ted Kooser's I've read so far has left me feeling better off for having read it. Sometimes like receiving a shy smile from a child, or gruff praise from an adversary...or like standing near a blazing fire on a windswept beach. His subjects are typically ordinary, commonplace, unremarkable, but their impact is anything but. Sometimes the story or message that he builds line by careful line isn't the point of the poem, it's just the background, and while you've been coasting along, bracing yourself for a slow-motion, head-on collision, the real point blind-sides you and you're suddenly left with pulse pounding, facing an entirely new direction. I recommend his work to anyone who loves poetry, and everyone who sometimes wonders why poems seem so obtuse.