Red Stilts

Red Stilts

by Ted Kooser


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781556596094
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publication date: 09/08/2020
Pages: 85
Sales rank: 90,335
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Ted Kooser is winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, for Delights and Shadows, and also served two terms as the Poet Laureate of the United States. He is currently the Presidential Professor at The University of Nebraska, teaching the writing of poetry. As Poet Laureate, he established and continues to edit a weekly newspaper column, American Life in Poetry, which is carried in over 150 newspapers, as well as online, and has an estimated circulation of three and a half million readers around the world. Kooser is the author of over twenty books, including five for children. He lives in a small town in Nebraska.


Garland, Nebraska

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

Ames, Iowa


B.S., Iowa State University, 1962; M.A., University of Nebraska, 1968

Read an Excerpt

Spring Landscape

A wake of black waves foamy with pebbles

follows the plow, rolls all the way up

to the fence, slaps into the grass and trickles

back, while farther out a spray of white gulls,

wings like splashes, are splashing down.

Spring on the prairie, a sky reaching forever

in every direction, and here at my feet,

distilled from all that blue, a single drop

caught in the spoon of a leaf, a robin’s egg.

A Woman and Two Men

I was past in an instant. It was raining,

just softly, after a morning-long shower,

no sounds but the hiss of the pavement,

my wipers whupping on low. Two men

in hardhats were parked on the shoulder

in a truck with a ladder rack and a bed

full of tools. A woman driving a pickup

with a camper had pulled up a few yards

behind them and had walked up the road

to the passenger’s side, her hair wet,

her arms wrapped about her. She had

boots, a fringed leather jacket with beads

on the fringe, and jeans with galaxies

of rhinestones on the pockets. The man

on the passenger’s side had rolled down

his window, but only partway, and was

staring out over the hood while the driver

leaned far forward and over to talk,

his shoulder pressed into the wheel,

all this in a flash, those three at the side

of the highway, the fourth glancing over

in passing. I could in that instant feel

something common between us, among us,

around us, within us. It was more than

a light April rain playing over a road.

Up the Block

Maybe you saw me pass by, walking,

or maybe you didn’t. I raised a hand

in a tentative wave, but you were intent

upon your watering, as if to make sure

the spray from the hose fell evenly

over your small plot of petunias, purple
pink, and white. The nozzle was yellow,

of plastic, much like a showerhead,

sweeping or brushing the bright drops

evenly, lacquering over the flowers,

the dark purple ones deeper in color

under the layers of glazes, and the pink

brighter, too. The white looked the same,

but you’d probably planted those there

mostly to set off the others. From one end

to the other you slowly and gently

swept the soft whiskbroom of droplets,

enrapt, or so it appeared, by what

you saw sprinkling out of your hand,

upon which I could see drops forming,

each diamond-bright on a knuckle,

and I’d guess they were cold, perhaps

even numbing, but you’d gotten hold

of a rainbow, and couldn’t let go.

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