The Life and Poetry of Ted Kooser

By Mary K. Stillwell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
Delights & Shadows

Just now, if I look back down
the cool street of the past, I can see
streetlamps, one for each year.

—From “Just Now”

Although integral to his work as a writer, Kooser’s interest and experience in the visual arts are not well known. Asa young boy, he drew before he wrote, apprenticed with and worked asa professional sign painter for many years, and in college considered a career in painting. Even after choosing poetry as his primary art form, Kooser has continued to paint, draw, and photograph the world around him. When he introduces himself in his memoir, Local Wonders, he is parked alongside a country road in a car he has converted into a traveling art studio. He initially identifies himself as “an amateur painter” and then as a “Sunday painter,” but before long he seems to conflate pen and brush. Painting, he writes, is his way “of trying to be a tulip, pushing my way out of the tight white bulb of winter and opening a little color against the darkness.” This nexus of dark and light, along with human affinity with nature, is his aesthetic dwelling place, one that readers are familiar with from his poetry.

Chiaroscuro, well known as a technique that renders form through

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