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Updated: Jul 22, 2023

Prior to the publication of my first book, Ted Kooser told me he was particularly moved by "Finely Crafted Ending," which is one of the poems that made its way into Straining to Catch Every Leaf. His endorsement, unofficial and informal, was nonetheless timely encouragement. At the time, I wondered if it were not foolishness - thinking to publish poetry so late in life. Encouragement may be understatement given my respect for Mr. Kooser, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry (2005) and selected United States Poet Laureate (2004-2006).

As indication of my respect and gratitude, I share one of many Ted Kooser poems that grabs hold and shakes me. From Delights & Shadows (2004) -


Mid April already, and the wild plums

bloom at the roadside, a lacy white

against the exuberant, jubilant green

of new grass and the dusty, fading black

of burned-out ditches. No leaves, not yet,

only the delicate, star-petaled

blossoms, sweet with their timeless perfume.

You have been gone a month today

and have missed three rains and one nightlong

watch for tornadoes. I sat in the cellar

from six to eight while fat spring clouds

went somersaulting, rumbling east. Then it poured,

a storm that walked on legs of lightning,

dragging its shaggy belly over the fields.

The meadowlarks are back, and the finches

are turning from green to gold. Those same

two geese have come to the pond again this year,

honking in over the trees and splashing down.

They never nest, but stay a week or two

then leave. The peonies are up, the red sprouts

burning in circles like birthday candles,

for this is the month of my birth, as you know,

the best month to be born in, thanks to you,

everything ready to burst with living.

There will be no more new flannel nightshirts

sewn on your old black Singer, no birthday card

addressed in a shaky but businesslike hand.

You asked me if I would be sad when it happened

and I am sad. But the iris I moved from your house

now hold in the dusty dry fists of their roots

green knives and forks as if waiting for dinner,

as if spring were a feast. I thank you for that.

Were it not for the way you taught me to look

at the world, to see the life at play in everything,

I would have to be lonely forever.

"Mother" - Republished from Delights & Shadows, from Copper Canyon Press, by permission of Ted Kooser.

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