Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I Love the Postal Service for Forwarding My Mail

Imagine a younger Faith. One year or so. She happens to be driving home from work when NPR interviews the current (now former) Poet Laureate of the United States. He is one Ted Kooser. Delightful, wonderful Ted Kooser.

While I'd love to pretend that you all know who Ted Kooser is, some of you may be unaware. Ted Kooser (along with Billy Collins) reawakened my love for poetry. The images in the poems were fresh to me and I couldn't predict where any given one would lead me before we parted.

I first learned of Kooser in college when I read the poem 'Selecting a Reader' and incorporated it into one of my units. I must really pause so you can savor it. Don't worry. More will follow.
Selecting a Reader
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.

Wasn't that just great? Aren't you glad I included that poem? Imagine my surprise after listening to this radio interview to learn that Kooser was in the Twin Cities that very evening to speak. Eric and I spontaneously trekked to the Twin Cities in the rain and joined all the others present to savor the reading. Ted was witty and we were all in the palm of his hand with his stories. I couldn't get to the outwardly euphoric level of those around me, but they would sigh and nod and make those 'mmm' sounds of approval all throughout the night. Eric knew that he lost me for those couple hours. I wish you could have been there with me to hear him read his works. Not every author is adept at reading aloud, but he is well suited to entertaining crowds.

During that evening, Ted spoke of how he had an opportunity for the ladies of the audience. Should we like, we could opt to receive a valentine from him. Indeed, he would send a poem out when St. Valentine's Day rolled around. How could I resist? Poetry from a poet laureate? I contributed my address and nearly forgot.

Imagine my delight when I arrived home tonight after tutoring and Eric, with mock reserve, handed me a card, postmarked from Valentine, Nebraska. On the back was the promised poem:
This Paper Boat
Carefully placed upon the future,
it tips from the breeze and skims away,
frail thing of words, this valentine,
so far to sail. And if you find it
caught in the reeds, its message blurred,
the thought that you are holding it
a moment is enough for me.

Honestly, Ted could have written just about anything and still had me grinning from ear to ear. I'm also extending some warm thoughts to the United States Postal Service for forwarding this postcard to me.

Although I understand this comes nowhere near trumping my sister's receipt of a hand-written postcard or a photo taken with him, at least I can hold my own, for I possess 'the last of the series.' Yes, after 22 years, Ted will no longer keep this up this courting, for his crushing ladies have grown too large in number.

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