Winter Morning Walks, Ted Kooser, 2000

Kooser is a poet of the Great Plains having been raised and lived his whole life in Nebraska.  He was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2004-2006.  His poetry is deceptively simple and straightforward, subtly concealing superb metaphors and ‘oh yeah’ moments.  He wrote this book of 100 poems during his recovery from surgery, chemo, and radiation for cancer, a time when he was slowly emerging from depression and using morning walks at dawn to rekindle his poetry muse.  The poems are brief, haiku-like, and contain sharp-eyed and sympathetic observations of both the natural and his internal landscape.  One of them, titled simply March 10:  Quiet and Cold at 6AM reads as follows:  “At dawn, in the roadside churchyard,/the recent, polished headstones glance and flash/as if the newly dead were waving pink placards/protesting the loss of their influence./But the soft old marbles, grainy from weather/and losing their names, have a steady glow,/like paper bags with candles lit inside,/lining a path, an invitation.”   I loved this book and what sealed the deal for me was that each of the 100 days, after writing the poem, Kooser would tape it to a postcard and send it to his dear friend, Jim Harrison.  Harrison is on my list of favorite writers, author of Legends of the Fall, numerous novellas and novels, poetry, and two entertaining and insightful memoirs.  Ironically, the cancer treated Kooser continues to live on, write and publish poetry while Harrison died in 2016.  Life!

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