by Ted Kooser
Now the seasons are closing their files
on each of us, the heavy drawers
full of certificates rolling back
into the tree trunks, a few old papers
flocking away. Someone we loved
has fallen from our thoughts,
making a little, glittering splash
like a bicycle pushed by a breeze.
Otherwise, not much has happened;
we fell in love again, finding
that one red feather on the wind.
The past few years I have taken the month of January to do a deeper dive into one poet, an attempt to go beyond an understanding of a few poems and to read not only their broader canon of work, but also their circle of influencers. This coming January I have been planning showcasing Robert Lowell, but the closer I get to January and the more I read of Lowell the more ambivalent I become. Lowell is a little too slick, too academic, too privileged. As much as I try to find things I like about Lowell, given the vast amount of sonnets the man wrote, in the end I just don’t like his poetry very much. Poetry is supposed to be enjoyable for the reader, not a beat down drubbing that leaves you bored and mystified.
Kooser, in my mind, is the anti-Lowell as a poet in some ways, but if Lowell hadn’t existed would Kooser as a poet exist? The same could be said of Pound and others. What I like about Kooser is his poems give me energy, whereas too many Lowell’s seems to take energy out. Kooser, for me, embodies the best of mid-western poetry, a relatively straight forward poetic vision that lets the reader inside his world, a world that is recognizable, not mamby-pamby, but not so stark as to scare us off. Kooser, like his poetry, has aged well.
by Karen Volkman
Say sad. Say sun’s a semblance of a bled
blanched intransigence, collecting rue
in ray-stains. Smirching pages. Takes its cue
from sateless stamens, flanging. Florid head
got no worries, waitless. Say you do. Say
photosynthesis. Light, water, airy bread.
What eats its source, its orbit? Something bad:
some plural petal that will not root or ray.
Sow stray. Salt night for saving, dreaming clay
for heap, for hefting. Originary ash
for stall and stilling. Say it will, it said.
Corolla corona, bliss-bane—delay
surge and sediment. Say instrument and gash
and ruminant remnant. Rex the ruse. Be dead.