Ted Kooser like Billy Collins, another American poet laureate, strikes me as a keen observer of the everyday. Reading Weather Central I am drawn into the culture and rhythm of the American Midwest. Hardships (past and present) faced by rural communities, the rhythm of life. He’s one of those poets who can draw our mind to an everyday event and make it seem momentous or profound.
His conversational tone, his uncomplicated diction and syntax, make him accessible to a broad audience and I’d especially recommend him to starting readers of poetry or those with an interest in extending their experience of free verse that isn’t too confronting in format.
A fenced-in square of sand and yellow grass,
five miles or more from the nearest town
is the site where the County Poor Farm stood
for seventy years, and here the County
permitted the poor to garden, permitted them
use of the County water from a hand-pump,
lent them buckets to carry it spilling
over the grass to the sandy, burning furrows
that drank it away—a kind of Workfare
from 1900. At night, each family slept
The American Midwest has some cultural similarities with the rural communities I live in, both in terms of relation to the land and the effect of economic decline. Kooser’s focus on this subject matter strikes a chord with me and I think if you're a fan of someone like Phillip Hodgins (though he was much more of a rhymer) you’ll enjoy Kooser’s work.
Overall I found the tone of the work to be reflective. If you like being drawn into a brief poetic tale you won’t be disappointed.