The Oregon Book Report - Book News from Oregon

Meet the mind-blowing poet

June 11, 2014

By Michal Ann McArthur, Bend
Author of Choking on a Camel

Her blog

Book Review: “Delights & Shadows,” a collection of poetry by Ted Kooser

I had never heard of Ted Kooser, but he intrigued me one night as I listened to him read his poetry on National Public Radio. His poems were gritty, homespun, down-to-earth. I liked that. I only found out later that he was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2004-2006 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for “Delights and Shadows.” Not bad for a man who spent much of his adult life working as a life insurance executive.

I like a poet who doesn’t mince around among unicorns and daffodils. I want to read lines that are arresting, thought-provoking, even mind-blowing, that skewer me with sharp insight or leave me breathless with wonder. When I read a poem, I want feel as though a film over my eyes has been removed and for the first time, I can SEE. Kooser’s poems do that for me.

He takes the common, ordinary stuff of life and illumines it, often very quietly. His words can be as powerful as a laser beam, light intensely focused that burns right into the heart of a matter and reveals what is there. In “At the Cancer Clinic,” he describes two women helping a cancer patient walk to the examining room, an event that happens countless times every day. Yet Kooser reveals the grace in this moment and I am struck with awe.

When I read poetry, I want to read beautiful language, not sentences strung with gaudy froufrou, but language exquisitely crafted, pleasing to the tongue and the ear. Kooser’s lines are like that for me. “Delights & Shadows” is the kind of book I pick up anytime I have just a few minutes. I read a poem or two, and my soul is refreshed.

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Discuss this article

Yvonne June 12, 2014

Your review is riveting–painting a picture of the power of poetry! Thanks for your thoughts,Michal Ann!

Terisa June 13, 2014

Wow! Can’t wait to read this make it sound delicious and satisfying…thanks, AB

Andrea June 14, 2014

Wow. You make me want rush right out and buy the book! This sounds like just the sort of poetry I would love to read!

TTaylor June 18, 2014

Sounds like we are on the same page when it comes to poetry. You have piqued my interest as I’m not a fan of poetry that is laced with flowery words but lacks any emotional grit.
I appreciate the honesty in your review.

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