Thaw; Kooser

I have been gone from this page for a long time and it makes me quite sad to look at the lovely things that have been written months ago and gone unanswered, unacknowledged, unheard by me. Can I respond after such a wintry absence? Do comments in cyberspace keep their flavor when thawed?

Mike, your Mnemosyne post was fine and timely. I too have wondered where I misplaced my soul since transitioning to my latest thing. John, lovely poem of graciously managable length. Brian, glad you liked the Ted Kooser book. Your comments on Etude added.

Let me say a word here about Kooser. Heidi and I have been to hear him twice at the Library of Congress and we (more her than me, actually) have avariciously gobbled up all his publicness over the last couple months – radio interviews, tv interviews, web interviews. The story of the man, apparently, is that he is from Nebraska and he is a good poet anyway. This is a drag. But still, having spent so much time in the slab of midwest that so marvelously coughed him up I do have to say that he has very familiar sensibilities. I am reading his Poetry Home Repair Manual now. If you haven’t heard of it, its what the title says it is, published this year. He talks about things not really being better for having been done one way than another. Yet he talks always about revising poems 30, 40, 50, 100 times before they are ready to be called done. Its a confusing Manual, as most are.

There was an interview with him in the NY Times magazine. Reading it, I was certain that the interviewer was kidding, laughing at herself/himself for acting such the snob when it was so ridiculous to do so. Anyway, I got a kick out of it.

Here is a better article about Kooser. Here is the poem inside it which I love:

The Blind Always Come as Such a Surprise

The blind always come as such a surprise,
suddenly filling an elevator
with a great white porcupine of canes,
or coming down upon us in a noisy crowd
like the eye of a hurricane.
The dashboards of cars stopped at crosswalks
and the shoes of commuters on trains
are covered with sentences
struck down in mid-flight by the canes of the blind.
Each of them changes our lives,
tapping across the bright circles of our ambitions
like cracks traversing the favorite china.

When a critic talks about skillful pacing in a poem they are talking about the sentence that spans four lines and begins with “The dashboards.” I’ll leave the commentary at that for now.


2 responses to “Thaw; Kooser”

  1. I was in Manhattan last Thursday for an interview. As I had a few minutes to pass following the interview before having to leave for the airport, I decided to walk a few blocks over to 5th Avenue for some choice moments of people-watching. As I was waiting to cross Park, I felt a tapping at the back of my heels and looked back to see the end of a white cane, though I would hesitate to call it a “great white porcupine.” The man holding the cane realized he had reached the Avenue, and turned to his left instead to cross 51st Street. There are no audible walk signals at that intersection, and they would be of little use, anyway, as cars very frequently continue through the intersection after the light has changed, or turn without much regard for the population of the cross-walks. The light on 51st Street was green, but the man began hesitantly to step into the street, and before I could do anything to prevent it, perhaps encouraged by other people crossing against the light, he strode fully into the street and proceeded to cross. Fortunately, the car coming through slowed to let him pass in front (along with another half dozen people who decided to dash across), but I could well imagine that it would take very little carelessness on anyone’s part in similar circumstances to result in serious injury. Manhattan is not a blind-friendly borough in general, with all the overcrowded pedestrian walkways nearly impossible to navigate even for the sighted, the alarming and inescapable noise, and the regular failure of its drivers to obey traffic laws with ordinary strictness. I’m not sure it was my ambitions, as Brian rightly questions, that the man tapped across, but I certainly saw New York in a very different light for a few minutes. What to me is an invigorating display of vibrant city life may well be to him a serious threat to his bodily integrity.

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