American Life in Poetry

KooserFellow Poets! Last week I published a post about Juan Felipe Herrera, the current Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Mr. Herrera is currently in his second term as Poet Laureate. I wanted to write about him because I read an interview The Washington Post published in March 2017 just prior to National Poetry Month.

This week, I am inspired to write about Ted Kooser and American Life in Poetry. Mr. Kooser served two terms as the prestigious U.S. Poet Laureate when he was appointed the 13th Poet Laureate from 2004-2006. It was Kooser’s own National Poetry Project, American Life in Poetry, which first drew my attention to him. According to the website,

“American Life in Poetry is a free weekly column for newspapers and online publications featuring a poem by a contemporary American poet and a brief introduction to the poem by Ted Kooser.”

Like any great project, Kooser presented a mission and a vision for ALP which is simply to promote poetry. I subscribed to ALP in May 2013 when they were in their ninth year and they are still going strong. On Monday, May 15th, they published their 634th column!

Some background on Ted Kooser. He’s got his own poet website: The Official Website of Poet: Ted Kooser. Here you can read his personal biography detailing his collected works, listen to him reading and talking about his poems, read some press reviews, and more. Mr. Kooser currently features only six poems on his site and lists the works they are published in as well as linking them to where you can purchase those works. Mr. Kooser also has an extensive couple of pages on The Poetry Foundation’s website. The Foundation’s biography is even more extensive than on Kooser’s site. Additionally, the Foundation has 26 of Kooser’s poems, 1 article, and 17 Audio & Podcast files. The Academy of American Poets has a sizable biography page for Kooser as well as four poems. Fortunately, they are four different poems than on the Poetry Foundation. Since he served as a U.S. Poet Laureate, you can also find loads of information on the Library of Congress’ pages. There is a brief summary of Kooser’s tenure as Poet Laureate, a page listing all Poet Laureate Projects including Kooser’s American Life in Poetry, and several articles and blog posts about Kooser and his work.

On The Poetry Foundation’s biography, they quote critic Dana Gioia who described Kooser as a “popular poet”—not one who sells millions of books, but

“popular in that unlike most of his peers he writes naturally for a nonliterary public. His style is accomplished but extremely simple—his diction drawn from common speech, his syntax conversational.”

Poetically, Kooser reminds me of Philip Levine and Billy Collins. Incidentally, they both served as Poets Laureate, Levine from 2011-2012 and Collins from 2001-2003. Perhaps I will write more about them later.

One of the things I like best about Mr. Kooser is that he is approachable and helpful as a poet. On August 8, 2016 I wrote to Mr. Kooser for advice on breaking into the poetry world. I have my own ideas and I have written about them on this blog. Mr. Kooser graciously replied that same morning. He suggested to focus on the task at hand, focus on the poem you are writing at the moment. Submit to quality literary journals and continue to submit. Get noticed and keep moving forward, keep progressing. I like writing to poets I admire and sending them compliments on my favorite poems of theirs. It is always a pleasant surprise when they write back!

If you care to check them out, three of my favorite Kooser poems are “Abandoned Farmhouse,” “Look for Me,” and “So This is Nebraska.” You can find all three on The Poetry Foundation’s website.

Keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan

Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate

 

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Juan Felipe Herrera from The Poetry Foundation

When I started writing this post, I had a different beginning and an entirely different direction for the writing. Rather than focus on a solitary interview with The Washington Post, I want to highlight more of the reading material available on the United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. I thought it was cool that the Post interviewed U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera on March 2, 2017, but at 610 words including title and questions,it is a bit short in my opinion. The length makes for a quick read and that is one of the intents of the “Just Asking” section of The Post. Still, when it comes to poets, especially Poets Laureate, I want as much as I can get! I want to know what they’re thinking, where they get their inspiration, and what they are publishing next!

 

The best resource to learn about Herrera’s contributions as Poet Laureate is the Library of Congress’s website. Here you can learn about Herrera’s national project “La Casa de Colores” (The House of Colors) as well as three major projects he initiated during his appointment to a second term.

Two other articles of interest on Herrera’s tenure as Poet Laureate appeared in The New York Times and NPR. The Times published their article on June 10, 2015, and NPR published their article on April 12, 2017. NPR’s article featured five videos of Herrera reading his poems. Seeing and hearing poets read their work fascinates me. Poets come from all walks of life and it is cool to get a feel for how they interact with their work.

To learn more about the position of U.S. Poet Laureate check out the Library of Congress’ FAQ. One of the things I love about the distinguished poets is they each bring something unique to the position. From 2011 to 2016, Herrera serve as a Chancelor of the Academy of American Poets.

Keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan

So You Want My Job: Poet

I’m figuratively kicking myself for not publishing this post sooner. I claim über busyness finalizing poems for my MFA Thesis and revising the project as a whole. But really I have no excuse. I want to publish one post per week and it has been two weeks since my last post.

To clarify the title of this post, I do not currently work as a poet. I would love to, but I have not pursued the prestigious, though unsung career of a poet. It took me a long time to even admit I am a poet. It took me longer still to admit in public I am a poet. Yes, I am a poet. It was hard to get the words out of my mouth for so long. This post is not about me.

This post is about some recent articles I read about brave folks who have taken that leap. First, the poet Jordan Chaney. Jordan was recently on the website Art of Manliness in 2012. The article I discovered was one of my most recent rabbit-holing spelunking excursions.

Art of Manliness is operated by a husband and wife duo. It is not a sexist site, nor is it strictly for men. There are plenty of articles presented that appeal to women. They describe their site as follows:

AoM is a blog about growing up well, aimed at men and their unique challenges and interests. We explore all things manly — from the serious and philosophical to the practical and fun. We seek to uncover how to live with grandpa’s swagger, virtue, and know-how in the present age by wedding the best of the past to the best of the present. The end goal is to create a synergy of tradition and modernity that offers men a way forward and signposts on how to live an excellent, flourishing life.

AoM runs a regular column called “So You Want My Job.” I do so much Internet rabbit-holing, I don’t remember what led me to this particular topic. I think I may have been looking at another article on Art of Manliness which led me to the “So You Want My Job” series, which led me to query “poet” in their search box. Waaaaaaaaay back on March 22, 2012, Art of Manliness published an interview for the series with poet Jordan Chaney working out of Kennewick, Washington. Mr. Chaney has a personal Facebook page as well as an author page as a career Poet. If you are interested in his life as a poet and how he survives as a poet, I encourage you to check him out.

I also recently started following another blogging poet named Katie Hale. It’s funny that I was going to post about the job of a poet because as I was putting this post together, I stumbled across Katie’s blog. On March 12th, 2017, she published a post entitled: . Recently Katie attended StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, where she served as the festival’s in-house blogger. Sounds like an awesome responsibility! There, she attended an event called “Making a Living as a Poet” sponsored by the Society of Authors. Ken Cockburn chaired the event with poets Sarah Hesketh and Harry Giles offering advice and talking about making money from poetry. They offer a different take on the Poet as a lifestyle and not just because they reside “across the pond.”

I posted this partly because it is important to know what others around you involved in your craft are engaged in. You should maintain a constant dialogue with your craft. There is a larger conversation going on about poetry in the world. Every day there are new speakers, new opinions, new forms, new rules, et cetera. By “dialogue” and “conversation,” I don’t mean that you are physically talking with anyone. This conversation includes blogs, Facebook posts, Twitter, Instagram, anything to engage the world outside of yourself. Poetry is not dead, rather, there are exciting things happening in the world of poetry every day. You just have to open your eyes and look for them, open your ears and listen for them.

Keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan