Flying at night : poems 1965/1985

by Ted Kooser

Paper Book, 1985





Pittsburgh : University of Pittsburgh Press, [2005?], c1985.


Named U.S. Poet Laureate for 2004-2006, Ted Kooser is one of America's masters of the short metaphorical poem. Dana Gioia has remarked that Kooser has written more perfect poems than any poet of his generation.In Flying at Night: Poems 1965-1985, Kooser has selected poems from two of his earlier works, Sure Signs and One World at a Time (1985). Taken together or read one at a time, these poems clearly show why William Cole, writing in the Saturday Review, called Ted Kooser ""a wonderful poet,"" and why Peter Stitt, writing in the Georgia Review, proclaimed him ""a skilled and cunning writer. .

User reviews

LibraryThing member samfsmith
I love Ted Kooser’s poetry. So seemingly simple, yet so complex.
LibraryThing member sageness
Kooser writes short, concise poems with fairly straightforward meaning. His work is a good choice for teaching imagery and meter.
LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
I do like Kooser, ever since I read a sample (about a dozen?) of his works in an anthology.?� Probably a plurality of the poems in this collection do support what some have called him, 'the Robert Frost of the prairie.'?á Nebraska, the Dakotas, dying grandparents, wind, drought, abandoned
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farmhouses and a church... sounds bleak but really isn't; it's just the way it is out there.?á?á Some poems do explore love, faith, beauty... but Kooser seems perfectly willing to skip entirely verse about flowers, children, other happy things.?á

The poems are accessible to naive readers with incisive observations and captivating metaphors, but read on that level they're a bit forgettable.?á Just interesting.?á I'm trying to pick a few to study in more depth, to see if I can get more out of them.?á I'm sure there is more.?á I might have to read this afresh next year, too.

Again, though, I muse: why do I like it??á I don't like bleak, dark, sad....?á Well, let's see what some particular, semi-random, examples reveal:

Sitting All Evening Alone in the Kitchen

The cat has fallen asleep.,
the dull book of a dead moth
loose in his paws.

The moon in the window, the tide
gurgling out through the broken shells
in the old refrigerator.

Late, I turn out the lights.
The little towns on top of the stove
glow faintly neon,
sad women alone at the bar.


There's a click like a piece of chalk
tapping the blackboard, and the furnace
and the furnace starts thinking: Now just where was I?
It's always the same stale thought
turned over and over: Got to
get something to eat.?á Nothing else
ever enters its mind. After all,
it's a very old furnace,
and all of its friends have moved on.

from Late Lights in Minnesota

a five-battery flashlight
pulling an old woman downstairs...

from Sleeping Cat

[when it wakes] the cat will come scampering back
into the blinding, bright rooms of its eyes.


Somebody deep in my bones
is lacing his shoes with a hook.
It's an hour before dawn
in that nursing home.
There is nothing to do but get dressed
and sit in the darkness.
Up the hall, in the brightly lit skull, the young pastor is writing his poem.
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LibraryThing member dasam
"like the thin gray scarves
of immigrants
standing in line,
hands in their pockets,
cold fingers
pinching the lint
of their stories"

Thus Ted Kooser interweaves metaphor within metaphor, image within image, in this fine selection of poetry from 20 years of writing. His writing is lucid and simple,
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but beautiful and evocative. There are no sour notes, no tones of presumption or artificial distancing through obfuscation here.

"The dog gets stiffly up
and limps away, seeking a quiet spot
at the heart of the house. Outside,
in silence, with diamonds in his fur,
the winter night curls round the legs of the trees,
sleepily blinking snowflakes from his lashes."

Mortality hovers over every poem, but its bittersweet knowledge brings forth poetry worth spending time with.
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