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Poetic Justice

By Margaret Hicks in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 15, 2006 2:20PM

kooser.jpgChicagoist did alright in poetry class, until we started clashing with our poetry teacher. He was one of the creepy teachers that lived in the basement of the girl’s dorm, he had a lazy eye and one track mind, but we’ll admit it, he taught us how to read poetry.

Enter Ted Kooser, Poet Laureate of the United States. The Poet Laureate is elected by the Librarian of Congress every year, and is responsible for composing poems for government events and such, but also to bring poetry to the wary American public. To do this, Kooser came up with American Life in Poetry. The program offers newspapers a weekly column, in which Kooser writes a short introduction and then a writer contributes a poem. Any publication can go to the website and publish it, for free, in their newspaper.

Kooser’s poems are easy to-read and understand. His poems are usually small but genuine moments we can all recognize and digest. Some critics say that his poetry is almost too easy, that it makes it hard to look under the poem and show something new, there’s not enough symbolism, there’s nothing to grab on to.

See what you think:

Selecting a Reader

First, I would have her be beautiful,
and walking carefully up on my poetry
at the loneliest moment of an afternoon,
her hair still damp at the neck
from washing it. She should be wearing
a raincoat, an old one, dirty
from not having money enough for the cleaners.
She will take out her glasses, and there
in the bookstore, she will thumb
over my poems, then put the book back
up on its shelf. She will say to herself,
"For that kind of money, I can get
my raincoat cleaned." And she will.

So we ask you, is it better to perfect one style and be great at it, or mediocre but experimental?

You can see Ted Kooser tonight, 6:30 pm, Ballroom of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 112 S. Michigan Avenue, $10 General Admission, $8 for students, free for members. To purchase tickets, please contact