Ted Kooser

(Ames, Iowa)

Selecting A Reader - Poem by Ted Kooser

First, I would have her be beautiful,
and walking carefully up on my poetry
at the loneliest moment of an afternoon,
her hair still damp at the neck
from washing it. She should be wearing
a raincoat, an old one, dirty
from not having money enough for the cleaners.
She will take out her glasses, and there
in the bookstore, she will thumb
over my poems, then put the book back
up on its shelf. She will say to herself,
"For that kind of money, I can get
my raincoat cleaned." And she will.


Comments about Selecting A Reader by Ted Kooser

  • (6/30/2018 2:45:00 AM)

    Ah, the dreams of an aging poet; but at least she thumbed over your poems as am I; the world is full of poets ever since we had recorded language; thanks to the Mercian's whose teutonic tongue became the scaffold for the English language. You at least, are a good poet, and should displace that idiot Robert Frost over whom so many Americans dote. Nothing personal Robert, you're just not a very good poet like this guy. (Report)Reply

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  • Jez Brul (2/10/2018 6:28:00 AM)

    vivid scenario wherein you can imagine yourself seeing that reader personally...
    Fantastic piece! ! ! !
    (Report)Reply

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  • Jasbir Chatterjee (2/26/2016 2:03:00 AM)

    lovely poem and I identify myself completely with it...Thanks for sharing. (Report)Reply

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  • (6/7/2015 9:08:00 AM)

    hha, if someone gave me a book for free, i would be very happy. (Report)Reply

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  • Savita Tyagi (6/7/2015 8:18:00 AM)

    Simply beautiful! Sad plight of a poet! Poor monetary rewards for artists! Still they create, they inspire! (Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • Kim Barney (6/7/2015 5:44:00 AM)

    This is a fantastic poem! I can see by reading the comments below that some people totally misunderstood Ted. The one who calls himself OLD POET got it right. (Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • Phanice Wamukota (6/7/2015 4:41:00 AM)

    Haha, thanks for understanding man. And then you will follow her and give her the book for free, because you are he guardian angel.. (Report)Reply

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  • Pranab K Chakraborty (6/7/2015 2:35:00 AM)

    Excellent and superb the tragedy of having a reader. Poet much cool to count the words to choice a rain-passionate reader female by birth. It's a new dimension to expose the reader's need a poet suffer by its poetic origin. (Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • (11/7/2007 12:11:00 PM)

    The lovely thing about this poem is how it flows from image to image...the beautiful woman...walking carefully...the loneliest moment of the afternoon...her hair still damp at the neck. You can see it clearly, feel it in a visceral way. Ted Kooser is a master at the art of story telling. And the thing is, if you are a writer...to inspire a woman to have her raincoat cleaned seems miracle enough. Every decision counts-every act, however small, changes the world. (Report)Reply

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  • (1/18/2007 9:38:00 PM)

    Short, simple and definitely Ted Kooser.
    Some comments show that they did NOT get this poem in spite of its simplicity.
    He's poking fun of his own work AND vanity people!
    Its a great poem!
    (Report)Reply

    9 person liked.
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  • john tiong chunghoo (9/24/2006 4:22:00 AM)

    first date
    he asks her what book
    she reads
    (Report)Reply

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  • (8/1/2006 1:18:00 PM)

    I can imagine Kooser lurking in the aisles of the bookstore, watching to see who is picking up his books. Of course he wants it to be a hot, sexy, yet intellectual girl who his poetry attracts. He is a MAN after all! And when she puts the book down, he makes into someone who is petty and obviously doesn't appreciat the art anyway. She's not quite as cute as she looked at first. It's about rejection. The dude got shot down!

    Annie
    (Report)Reply

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  • (4/18/2006 3:37:00 PM)

    *huge smile* Masterful write (Report)Reply

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  • (11/25/2005 3:56:00 PM)

    Oh—arrogance, I see. Deathless? How earnest, how arrogant such commentary strikes me.

    I do like the poem and enjoy Mr. Kooser’s longing for a beautiful reader and his acceptance of the shabby raincoat. He is a man who takes his art so lightly as to let her leave without buying a book.
    (Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • (9/9/2005 3:28:00 AM)

    Great poem! ! I absloutly love it! so simple and such a joy to read.

    Its one of my favourite
    (Report)Reply

    5 person liked.
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  • (7/13/2005 10:42:00 AM)

    Oh, to have Billy Collins back as the Poet Laureate... this poem, especially, reminds me of a better one by Collins- Marginalia, one of the best lines of which is, 'Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love.' Kooser definitely borders into the arrogant in not a few of his poems, something about his tone. He seem to feel that as a poet, the world waits on him. I agree with a comment made earlier by Lamont- if anything Kooser, instead of inspiring me, heartens me in believing that I too perhaps am capable of winning a prize for my poetry one day. (Although I myself have shared the wish that a reader of my poetry would be beautiful...) (Report)Reply

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  • (4/5/2005 11:58:00 AM)

    This is lovely... I am definitely impressed. : -)

    I found out about Mr. Kooser only today, when I read of his Pulitzer Prize-winning book entitled 'Delights and Shadows.' In searching this site I then found 'Selecting a Reader, ' which has captured my fancy as do few poems I read.

    I would have to cite Kooser's use of imagery - visual, emotional, and sensual - as my favorite feature of this poem. It does make the poem highly accessible and easy to interpret, though I must add that I find its emotional impact somewhat more difficult to describe. This is definitely a good thing - the emotions are complex, rather than vague.

    The tone shifts from wistful at the beginning ('I would have her be beautiful, ' 1) to an air of self-deprecating humor at the end ('...And she will, ' 13) . This encourages both reminiscence and laughter - which, at least for me, is uniquely charming - and makes the experience of reading the work that much more enjoyable.

    I'm definitely reading more Ted Kooser.
    (Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • (1/29/2005 1:43:00 PM)

    I understand why this is one of his most popular-it's mildly witty, easily accessible, surrenders up its meaning quickly. Not very challenging. #4 (about the Vietnamese Cafe) is better, and so is #1 (birthday poem about the poet as dairy cow) . It's far from deathless poetry, but makes a good introduction to his book. (Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
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  • (11/23/2004 5:26:00 PM)

    Amen! I love those stores where you can act like you're at a library, and read a whole book while there! Cheap-o, that's me!
    I am an acquaintance of your son in Rantoul.
    (Report)Reply

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  • (10/22/2004 4:14:00 PM)

    FYI: This poem appeared essentially as an introduction, at the beginning of Kooser's book _Sure Signs_.

    It's one of my favorites of all time.
    (Report)Reply

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Read poems about / on: money, poetry, beautiful, hair, poem



Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003



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