Red Stilts finds Pulitzer Prize-winner and former U. S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser at the top of his imaginative and storytelling powers. Here are the richly metaphorical, imagistically masterful, clear and accessible poems for which he has become widely known. Kooser writes for an audience of everyday readers and believes poets “need to write poetry that doesn’t make people feel stupid.” Each poem in Red Stilts strives to reveal the complex beauties of the ordinary, of the world that’s right under our noses. Right under Kooser’s nose is rural America, most specifically the Great Plains, with its isolated villages, struggling economy, hard-working people and multiple beauties that surpass everything wrecked, wrong, or in error.
Unrolled from a sleeve of green felt
after years in a chest in the attic,
the family silverware has gone ghostly
with inky fingerprints of tarnish,
which for years have been feeling
their way forward through time
in the manner that flat black paint
on the back of a mirror picks its way
through to the front, as if wanting to
take part in whatever’s reflected,
in this instance a very old woman
bent alone at her table, peering down
into the past in the bowl of a spoon.