The Life and Poetry of Ted Kooser

By Mary K. Stillwell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
Official Entry Blank

Read anybody’s first poem
and you’ll see there was a model for it.

The Poetry Home Repair Manuel

Dedicated to Will Jumper, “who taught me this,” Official Entry Blank reflects Kooser’s debt to his mentor at Iowa State University, under whose tutelage many of the poems were written. Its epigraph is taken from Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook: “After the demonstration of all the parts of the limbs of man and of the other animals, you will represent the proper method of action of these limbs, that is, in rising after lying down, in moving, running and jumping in various attitudes.”

Not only does Kooser draw attention to the visual arts, important to him since he was a boy, but he also offers an analogy that reflects on the origin, course, and goals of his poetry. Just as da Vinci’s notebooks record the artist’s study of the human body and his designs of mechanical models (of the heart, limbs, etc.), Official Entry Blank offers the poet’s own articulations. While de Vinci drew his knowledge of the human form by mainly studying cadavers, Kooser has observed his own world, learning the principles of craft from his own masters, literary cadavers, if you will.

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