Thursday, February 24, 2005

Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps by Ted Kooser

My question as I started reading was “Why did I buy this book?” I had a vague memory of a glowing review in one of the review journals that I read. As the author described life in rural Nebraska, its people, the wildlife, the weather, and the topography, I sensed that I was forgetting something. He mentioned having a shed where he would read and write. He seemed to meet a lot of people. He remembered moments from his childhood and youth and thought about his parents and his uncle and his grandparents. I kept reading each diary-like entry, enjoying the stories and thoughts. Finally, when he mentioned meeting a Russian poet, it dawned on me. Kooser is the Poet Laureate of the United States. It is no wonder that he writes so well.

The obvious thing to do after reading Kooser's memoir is to read his poetry, and I suggest the collection Delights and Shadows. You will recognize some of his stories from Local Wonders turned into poems. “At the Cancer Clinic” and “Turkey Vultures” are two pieces related to his fight with cancer. Other poems describe a motorcyclist at a stoplight, a student with an overlarge backpack, and pastels in a wooden box that had once belonged to Mary Cassatt. Family and memories are also important in the poems. Even reluctant poetry readers may enjoy this book.

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