'/> Uncommon Hours: Poet Ted Kooser appears at the University of Kansas
Blogging on culture, politics, and the environment since 2008.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Poet Ted Kooser appears at the University of Kansas

Ted Kooser, the nation’s 13th Poet Laureate, is as understated as his poems. He appeared last evening at the University of Kansas, in conjunction with National Poetry Month, where he read from his poetry and responded to questions from an audience of about 150.

He is a slender man with receding gray hair and wire-rimmed glasses, who finds humor and poetry in the objects and people that surround us but seem to have little or no dramatic interest – an elderly couple sharing a sandwich in a restaurant, a woman tossing dishwater from the back porch, the sound of a plane overhead in the middle of the night.

Kooser described his preference to be “outside the poem, like the spy in the hotel lobby.” Most of his poems are short lyrics of observation, but he brings to them refreshing and precise metaphors that remind us of why poetry matters, why we need poets to aid us in seeing the world clearly.

In “The Rainy Morning,” for instance, we watch as “the wind turns the pages of rain.” The old man in “Two Men on an Errand” has “white hair fine as a cirrus cloud.” And the skater in Kooser’s poem by the same name lands her jump on a frozen Nebraska pond, “smiling back at the woman she’d been just an instant before” – a metaphor that suggests not only her movement through time, but her success at landing the jump, previously anticipated, yet to be accomplished, with failure a prospect, and all of that immanent in the image.

During the questions, he was asked what advice he had for aspiring poets, and his response was simple: read.

“Read one hundred poems for every one try to write,” he said, adding, “Reading is the most important thing you can do.”

No comments:

Post a Comment