Red Stilts

Ted Kooser

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.

ISBN: 9781556596094

Format: Hardcover


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.

About the Author

Thirteenth United States Poet Laureate (2004–2006) Ted Kooser is a retired life insurance executive who lives on acreage near the village of Garland, Nebraska, with his wife, Kathleen Rutledge. He is a visiting professor at the University of Nebraska, where he teaches poetry and nonfiction writing. His collection Delights & Shadows was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 2005. His poems have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Hudson Review, The Antioch Review, The Kenyon Review, and dozens of …

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“Few poets can continue to reveal the world book after book like Kooser. A beautiful collection.” —The Millions

“Each poem is a pleasure… I have a shelf of Ted Kooser poetry and whichever book I pull from it, it takes me quietly away from whatever dissonance the outside world is shoveling at me, and into a gently masterful poem that seems so simple, so connected to everyday things we miss in our confusion.” —NewPages

Red Stilts demonstrates that poets, like fine wines, continue to improve with age… Those familiar with Kooser’s work will recognize his skill at connecting the ordinary events of daily life to the sublime.” —Lincoln Journal Star

“Kooser seems to be at the top of his game… How welcome, in a year touched by disappointments, to find Red Stilts and realize that Ted Kooser hasn’t stopped writing poetry. This tired world, it seems, needs him now more than ever.” —Christian Science Monitor

“At a time when so many of us must dwell in virtual worlds, before a screen, Red Stilts offers us over and over the wonders of everyday life rendered with precision and care. Kooser’s poems, so like the simplest of prayers themselves, remind me of what Simone Weil once wrote: ‘Abso­lutely unmixed attention is prayer.’ It’s impossible not to relish the ‘unmixed attention’ given in each of these quietly sublime poems, which place us effortlessly back into the present moment.” —The Christian Century

“In Kooser’s case, poetry can offer an occasion to gather, if not literally, then in the mutual understanding of a shared language, shared concepts, and the shared meaning that Kooser trusts us to make out of what he has given us.” —Front Porch Republic

“You can’t go wrong… with Red Stilts from former poet laureate Ted Kooser. Like his previous work, it shows that the best poets are great storytellers.” —The Baton Rouge Advocate

Red Stilts… reminds readers how his verse is built on utility and art, the lyrical equivalent of a neighborhood garden or a favorite tool.”—Petosky News-Review

“There is seemingly nothing out of which Ted Kooser cannot make a good poem.”—California Review of Books