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Delights & Shadows Paperback – May 1, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Like Kentucky's Wendell Berry, Kooser is a poet of place. But just as Kooser's eastern Nebraska is more modestly impressive than Berry's lush, riverine Kentucky, Kooser's poetry is more restrained than Berry's. Kooser is less big-C culturally concerned, less anxious about the destiny of nation and world. Kooser carries religion far more lightly; he envisions faith passing as casually "from door to door" as a pair of plaster or plastic "Praying Hands" en route to "every thrift shop in America." Having survived a major health crisis, Kooser is warier of death; in "Surviving" he writes of "days when the fear of death / is as ubiquitous as light," extending even to the ladybird beetle, paralyzed when "the fear of death, so attentive / to everything living, comes near." Though he focuses as often as Berry on memories, Kooser is less historically and more personally conscious in his poems of recollection. And Berry has come up with no finer metaphor than that of Kooser's "Memory," in which recall is a benignly ruthless tornado. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

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, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Delights & Shadows. He lives in Nebraska.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press; 1st edition (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556592019
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556592010
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Charles M. Nobles VINE VOICE on October 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
The Librarian of Congree named Kooser U.S. Poet Laureate on August 12th for a one-year term beginning in October, 2004. He is a retired life insurance executive who lives on an acreage near the village of Garland, Nebraska, northwest of Lincoln. He has published ten books of poetry and won numerous awards including two National Endowment fo the Arts fellowships in poetry, the James Boatwright Prize, the Pushcart prize, the Stanley Kunitz Prize, a Merit Award from the Nebraska Arts Council and the 2001 Nebraska Book Award for poetry.

This is his latest effort and a perfect example of his talent for writing poetry that is accessible, inviting, familiar and ordinary in a most extraordinary way. There are no tricks, no intentional obscurities, no academic machinatins or clever slights of hand in his work. Instead, what you get is his observation of people, places, and events that make up our everydday life in an ordinary world all done in a way this is frest, illuminating, and ultimately Oh, so familiar. Using what poet Randall Jarrell calls "the dailiness of life," Kooser combines the past and present to remind us of, ultimately, the worthiness of existence.

For example, in the poem"A Winter Morning," Our attention is called to the light in a farmhouse window viewed from the highway that we have all seen in one form or another.

"A farmhouse window far back from the highway

speaks to the darkness in a small, sure voice.

against this stillness, only a kettle's whisper,

and against the starry cold, one small blue ring of flame."

His poem "Necktie" is delightful, implies familiarity that is somehow new and important, and indicative of the wonderful verses throughout the book.
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Format: Paperback
So much is made of Ted Kooser's talent for exposing the extraordinary within the mundane that it is a wonder he hasn't become poetry's equivalent to a typecast Molly Ringwald, fleeing to Paris for a new identity. We hear from Poetry magazine that Kooser "documents . . . daily life"; from a description on his latest book's back cover that he "reveals the remarkable within an otherwise ordinary world" and from his friend Jim Harrison, who remarks on Kooser's "genius" for - surprise! - "making the ordinary sacramental."

Such constant praising of this narrow aspect of Kooser's wider achievement turns it into a kind of shtick, like Philip Levine's factory smoke. It is characteristically American to exploit any decently popular cultural marvel into something so familiar that its most visible representatives grace every cereal box and billboard from Seattle to Key West. I am not betting that Kooser will be the next spokesman for Wheaties - the days of Robinson Jeffers appearing on the cover of Time magazine are long behind us - but I am daring to suggest that there is more to Kooser's work than sacramental mason jars.

Sure, Kooser doesn't exactly help things with titles such as "Cosmetics Department," "A Jar of Buttons" and the exhilarating "A Spiral Notebook" (I wonder what that one's about?) but perhaps he is content with his given status as Hero of the Daily World. That's fine; who wouldn't be? In Delights and Shadows, however, I see more. I see that what Kooser does is less significant than how he does it; that amid such elusive simplicity as these poems command are more complicated emotions, the secret stories of well-lived lives, and a poet behind the scenes who understand exactly what buttons to push to let the reader into them.
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Format: Paperback
I think Kooser's latest book is his best book yet. The poems are concise and written in that plainspoken style Kooser has perfected. And Kooser speaks a poetic language we can all understand. There are five poems that really stand out in the collection. "Tattoo" deals with the fading and aging not just of a man's tatoo, but in a way, of man himself. It's a simply elegant poem. "At the Cancer Clinic" is perhaps the finest poem in the book. Very elegant. Very simple. And wonderful. "A Rainy Morning" compares the operation of a wheelchair with the playing of a piano, which is a fresh and vibrant metaphor, at least in Kooser's hands. "Memory" is atypical of Kooser. It is longer than most of his poems and is one marathon sentence that employs more poetic tricks than one is used to seeing in his poetry. But it suceeds and very well. And finally "Mother" which I think you can only appreciate by reading. Kooser's poems speak (much like his predecessor Billy Collins) to the common reader. That isn't to say that his poems aren't worth rereading. You gain much by revisiting a Kooser poem. He is one of the best writing today.
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Somewhere in our critical language the word 'simple' gained negative connotations, as though the word should be hyphenated with suffixes like simpleminded, simpleton, etc. Ted Kooser has resurrected the true meaning of that word and uses it with grace and aplomb in his poetry and his prominence in the arena of American Poets (he is the Poet Laureate of the United States) proves that his creative decision has been correct.

DELIGHTS & SHADOWS is a brilliant collection of his recent poems and for those unfamiliar with Kooser's writing, this small book is an excellent starting point. Kooser takes the most mundane 'simple' topics, observes them, mulls them like brewing a pot of tea and then serves them back to us in the quietest, leanest way, a manner that causes pause. And if ever a poet defined his reason in a word for writing, 'pause' would be high on the list.

He can be gut wrenchingly poignant as in FATHER 'Today you would be ninety-seven/if you had lived, and we would all be/miserable, you and your children,/driving from the clinic..........I miss you every day - the heartbeat/under your necktie, the hand cupped/on the back of my neck, Old Spice/in the air, your voice delighted with stories./On this day each year you loved to relate/that at the moment of your birth/your mother glanced out the window/and saw lilacs in bloom. Well, today/lilacs are blooming in side yards/all over Iowa, still welcoming you.' No lovelier eulogy could be imagined from a son for his father.

Kooser writes of Flow Blue China, cancer clinics, tattoos, starlight, grasshoppers - and so many more of the unnoticed beauties that pry into the cracks of our crowded lives. Reading Ted Kooser is a reorienting experience, one that is a powerful, quiet salve. Grady Harp, April 05
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