The Life and Poetry of Ted Kooser

By Mary K. Stillwell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Looking the Part

You may have seen me—
bleached-out Levis, boots with chains,
a leather jacket, and duck’s-ass hair.

—From “Home Town”

When the Guttenberg visits were over, the Koosers returned to Ames, where backyard gardens were at their height and night began to nibble at the edges of summer. The leaves of the great elms began to turn, and the school bell called the town’s children back to classrooms. At Beardshear School Teddy loved to draw and paint; his teachers recognized and encouraged his artistic talent. In fourth grade Miss Kirby introduced him to poetry. From the beginning, the young poet wrote about the world at hand: “‘I love my dog, his padded paws. / At Christmas he’s my Santa Claus. / At Easter he’s my Easter bunny,’” Kooser recites, recalling an early poem, “And then I suppose the next line ends with ‘funny’”

Teddy was drawn to dramatic narratives, including “The Listeners” by British writer Walter De La Mare. A stirring account of a lone traveler’s ride through the dark night, the poem was one from which, Kooser writes, he “never quite recovered.”

“Is there anybody there?” “The Listeners” begins, as the traveler

-22-

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