Image by Kimberly Farmer

Sara Beth West

(@fiftytwowest)

is a reader and a writer, offering book reviews and interviews with leading writers and thinkers.

On Sundays, We Read Poetry

Each Sunday, I post a brief introduction to a collection of poetry I've been loving. I include one poem that I think really sings. No review. No need. If it's here, you'll know I recommend it. If you have one to recommend (yours or someone else's), send it along. I'll do my best to be here every Sunday.

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Confession: this isn't a book of poetry. But former poet laureate Ted Kooser's The Wheeling Year is worthy of your poetic attention. Kooser subtitles this collection "A Poet's Field Book," citing the gorgeous notebooks of his friend, artist Keith Jacobshagen, as inspiration for what he calls, "sketches and landscape studies made out of words."

Organized by month, each small piece can be chewed on like a poem, and reflecting each season as they do, I have decided it would be best to read each set of entries as the months unfold over the course of this year. So really, I can only recommend to you today the month of January, bitter cold and full of empty hope as it can be. In Kooser's hands, it is a remarkable month indeed.


Here is one notable entry:


Everywhere at this moment women are cupping their hands the way this teenage girl at the bus stop cups hers, striking a match to light a cigarette as if dipping a portion of light from the wind, then swiftly lifting the glow to her lips though it leaks through her stubby fingers and wets her sharp chin. She tastes it, she swishes it around in her mouth, she rinses her teeth with the smoke. And she closes her eyes just as those other women are closing theirs and draws the red light into her breast and holds it there, burning with pleasure, while with one hand, which in her mind is now tapered, lovely and sophisticated, she shakes the last drop of fire from the end of the match.

If you insist on a poetry collection, Kooser's latest, Red Stilts, was released by Copper Canyon last year.

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