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21 August 2007

K is for Kooser


Today was a tough one. There are many K words that intrigue me, like kaleidoscope, all those pieces turning and turning in the widening gyre, bouncing light off of pebbles and shards of glass. Or keelhaul, or kraken (a personal favorite and who, pray tell, can forget the fabulous poem it inspired Tennyson to pen?), or Mr Brilliant’s offering of kalpa (a measuring system that will redefine “long view”) or keraunograph, an instrument for recording distant thunderstorms and the pattern made by lightning on a struck object, or an instrument for measuring dust in air, the koniscope.

Or keystone, kudos, knack, knit, knot, kiss, kind, kickoff, kin, kaput.

Or any of a number of “K” phobias:

Kainolophobia or Kainophobia- Fear of anything new, novelty.
Kakorrhaphiophobia- Fear of failure or defeat.
Katagelophobia- Fear of ridicule.
Kathisophobia- Fear of sitting down.
Kenophobia- Fear of voids or empty spaces.
Keraunophobia - Fear of thunder and lightning.
Kinetophobia or Kinesophobia- Fear of movement or motion.
Kleptophobia- Fear of stealing.
Koinoniphobia- Fear of rooms.
Kopophobia- Fear of fatigue.
Koniophobia- Fear of dust. (good luck surviving in my house—get out your koniscope!)
Kosmikophobia- Fear of cosmic phenomenon. (ain’t that the truth!)
Kymophobia- Fear of waves.
Kynophobia- Fear of rabies.
Kyphophobia- Fear of stooping.

But as compelling as all of those K words are, ultimately, Kooser won.

I don’t know how to say this, except to just say it, pull it off like a Band Aid, quick: Little special wonderful lovely sardonic Billy Collins might have some competition for my affection. I know—blasphemy. But a dear old friend sent some of Ted Kooser’s poems and once you take a look, you’ll see, I think, why my head has been turned:

From his Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Young Poets:

"Considering the ways in which so many of us waste our time, what would be wrong with a world in which everybody were writing poems? After all, there's a significant service to humanity in spending time doing no harm. While you are writing your poem, there's one less scoundrel in the world. And I'd like a world, wouldn't you, in which people actually took time to think about what they were saying? It would be, I am certain, a more peaceful, more reasonable place. I don't think there could ever be too many poets. By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say, ‘We loved the earth but could not stay.’”

And so, his words, two poems, in celebration of the letter K and the poet we are all meant to become, and—in fact—are:


After Years

Today, from a distance, I saw you

walking away, and without a sound

the glittering face of a glacier

slid into the sea. An ancient oak

fell in the Cumberlands, holding only

a handful of leaves, and an old woman

scattering corn to her chickens looked up

for an instant. At the other side

of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times

the size of our own sun exploded

and vanished, leaving a small green spot

on the astronomer's retina

as he stood in the great open dome

of my heart with no one to tell.


Flow Blue China

No real flowers would give of themselves

as these do, the soft tips of their petals

easing out under the painted gold borders,

then bleeding into puffs of blue, and the aunt

who in her old age gave me these cups

and saucers, the plates, bread plates and platters,

the gravy boat, and the big covered bowl

that for seventy years she brought to her table

heaped high with buttercup potatoes,

she too, like one of these soft blue flowers,

has slipped beyond the thin line at the edge.

I lift this cup to her. Flow, blue.


Billy who?
(Just kidding, Billy. Call me).


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WOW. I've never read him...but I will now. And what's the deal with insurance and poetry? I've worked in the insurance biz...and it certainly never felt poetic to me. ;) (Didn't W. Stevens work in insurance, too?)

Wow. Thanks for sharing . . .I can see why your head was turned!

I too admit Ted turned my head with talk of dishwater rainbows. Still, Billy holds my heart for closing each familiar encounter with anticipated surprise.

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