Kindest Regards: New and Selected

Image of Kindest Regards: New and Selected
Release Date: 
May 8, 2018
Copper Canyon Press
Reviewed by: 

"[Kooser's] craft is to be cherished in a world where contemporary poetry, especially visual poetry, is frequently misunderstood."

Reading Ted Kooser’s poetry is like wearing a favorite pair of gloves. They are so warm and comforting that you cannot weather the world without them. They hold memories of everything touched, held, and hugged; they hold memories of home. Kooser’s poetry reminds us of this, as well as our engagement of the natural word and the experience of living.

Kindest Regards contains selections of Kooser’s poems, ranging from 1980’s Sure Signs to 2017’s At Home, along with some new ones. Just like those old gloves, revisiting these poems evokes moments we learned to cherish poetry through its simplicity, clarity, and enlightenment.

Here are the first four lines from “The Fan in the Window,” which appears in One World at a Time: “It is September, and a cool breeze / from somewhere ahead is turning the blades; / night, and the slow flash of the fan / the last light between us and darkness.” From the outset it is clear where the poem is headed, without any confusion: time and transformation.

The poet describes dust that has collected the essence and memories of a natural landscape and how they now cling to the fan in “just the way / we cling to the earth as it spins.” And then the poem turns with the next line: “The fan has brought us through . . .” It is transformed into a vehicle for the passage of time. And through this simple vehicle, life flows forever. It flows into “October, the engine cooling, / the fan blades so lazily turning, but turning.” Time is constant. Life is constant.

“Dishwater” from Delights & Shadows is a favorite. The poet describes his grandmother throwing out dishwater to create “a bridge that leaps from her hot red hands / and hangs there shining for fifty years / over the mystified chickens, / over the swaying nettles, the ragweed, / the clay slope down to the creek . . .”

This dynamic moment becomes a memory that captures an entire landscape of natural, clear images to create a nostalgic metaphor for human sentiment. The dishwater creates “a glorious rainbow / with an empty dishpan swinging at one end.” It is a beautiful, permanent memory of an action. Poems should create permanence, and Kooser is a master at this.

The selections in Kindest Regards, as well as with all of Kooser’s collections, are accessible to readers of all ages. They are the kind of poems that should be translated and taught because of their masterful use of clear and easily understood language.

Language comes naturally to Kooser. His poems are crafted with ease, and the stanza breaks are perfect. The poems stay on course and carry complete metaphors. There is no doubt. Kooser also punctuates his poetry, using uniform stanzas, without spreading words across the page. His craft is to be cherished in a world where contemporary poetry, especially visual poetry, is frequently misunderstood.

Kindest Regards: New and Selected Poems belongs in your home library. It is a very enjoyable and thorough collection of poetry, and so much more.