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Sure Signs: New and Selected Poems

4.30  ·  Rating Details  ·  180 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
Named U.S. Poet Laureate for 2004-2006, Ted Kooser is one of America's masters of the short metaphorical poem. Dana Gioia has remarked that Kooser has written more perfect poems than any poet of his generation. Long admired and praised by other poets, Kooser is also accesible to the reader not familiar with contemporary poetry.
Paperback, 112 pages
Published June 30th 1980 by University of Pittsburgh Press (first published January 1st 1980)
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May 15, 2014 Andrea rated it it was amazing
I've long loved Ted Kooser's poetry, but I think I somehow missed reading a full collection. So I've remedied that and read "Sure Signs." It is a beautiful collection, equal parts whimsical and sad, embracing life while looking at death and aging. His poems are short, little moments and observations. I read it while eating dinner at a diner, and so didn't take the time to transcribe favorite poems like I usually do, both because I didn't want to get ketchup on the book, and because I didn't want ...more
Jul 20, 2007 Margie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Although my favorite book of Ted's was an early chapbook called "Old Marriage and New", I'll take this as a fine substitute. Ted's poetry is very accessible, which makes it something I recommend to a lot of people. But it also speaks eloquently and movingly about Nebraska and Iowa. And having known Ted as a friend means that his poetry also evokes for me memories of our times together.
Jun 25, 2010 Matthew rated it really liked it
From the vacant rooms in “An Empty Place” (p. 44) and “North of Alliance” (p. 51) to the forsaken pastures of “Abandoned Farmhouse” (p. 64), the cold Midwestern landscape of Ted Kooser’s Sure Signs seems, at times, the picture of neglect. While the ‘empty house’ in “North of Alliance” has seemingly “nothing / to tell us the style of people / who lived here,” the “Abandoned Farmhouse” speaks sorrowful volumes of its former inhabitants. In the narratives of these poems characters are known only by ...more
Benjamin Vineyard
Dec 27, 2012 Benjamin Vineyard rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Once again, I found myself warmed into the simplicity of human life as written by Ted Kooser. I could read poem after poem, immerse myself in story after story, and then pause after each one to be present in the scenes I've just entered - reminiscent scenes of my own childhood in rural Idaho.

I read Kooser because I want to absorb his language, his simple cadences and simple attentiveness to the basic fabric of life around us. I want to notice things like Kooser; I want to be able to speak and w
Feb 03, 2014 Mejix rated it really liked it
The first poem, "Selecting a Reader", was brilliant. The rest of the book is uneven but it does contain some gems. Apparently there are a lot of empty barns in Nebraska. A lot of old people dying in these poems too.
Jul 27, 2011 Abby added it
I am very glad I bought this book. I am very glad I read it on lazy summer afternoons in a plains town in Wyoming. Sad and seasonal, these poems are not exactly weighty but definitely fill you up. Eving reading one or two a night as I did, I felt like I just had a full meal. There is very little motion here, and many old people and old friends and old houses and even death. There is also the kind of comfort you can only get from images of beauty in a place you've been in long enough to know it's ...more
Oct 02, 2010 Matt rated it it was amazing
There are no poems in this slim volume that occupy more than one page. Most are a half-page or less in length. And yet they are compressed like diamonds, small things packed with significance. The poems cover a myriad of things, some humorous, some wistful, some sad, some bright, at least two that are terrifying. This is a remarkable collection that I will return to again and again. It has about it the qualities of a touchstone.
Aug 21, 2013 Hundeschlitten rated it really liked it
A collection of beautiful, deceptively simple poems about life and death on the farmland of Nebraska. A few of the metaphors (for instance, people described as buildings) may fall a little flat, but only in comparison to the rich syntax that predominates. A sample line: "Now my father carries his old heart in its basket of ribs/like a child coming into the room with an injured bird."
Sep 12, 2007 Melody rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The Poet Laureate is not the Poet Laureate by accident. Kooser is a poet of the everyday and finds the transcendent therein. He puts me in mind of Robert Frost in the way he sneaks up on you and leaves you breathless and bewildered, thinking to yourself "... but that poem was about a woman and her dustrag, why am I so dizzy?"
Kristina Gibson
Dec 15, 2015 Kristina Gibson rated it really liked it
Interesting to read some earlier poems by one of my favorite authors - a bit rougher than his later work, but you can see the seeds of what he will become.
Jun 09, 2010 Lindsey rated it really liked it
Kooser is always wonderful, but I didn't like "Sure Signs" quite as much as his more recent works. In addition to the poems I already knew from this volume, I also enjoyed "Visiting Mountains" and "In the Kitchen at Midnight."
Nov 17, 2010 Tim rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed the directness of Ted Kooser's poetry. The metaphor and the images startled and shook up the familiar and grim scenes of country life, while the language always remained accessible.
Mar 09, 2010 Doug rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Anything by Kooser is grand. This often neglected collection is a great place to start. It's the sort you can give poetry skeptics to draw them in.
Frank Burnham
Sep 20, 2012 Frank Burnham rated it it was amazing
The first few lines always sound like prose, then the next thing you know he's slipped some poetry by you. First Snow is my favorite.
Shirley Plummer
Jul 05, 2009 Shirley Plummer rated it liked it
Recommended to Shirley by: no one
He continually comes up with verbal surprises --- very apt phrases to illustrate his thoughts.
Oct 23, 2008 Andrew added it
Sometimes I appreciate a simple, carefully crafted, unpretentious poem.
May 21, 2009 Connie rated it really liked it
Almost five stars...some of these poems are absolutely perfect.
Patrick T. Randolph
Jul 04, 2009 Patrick T. Randolph rated it it was amazing
Pure insight into the Midwestern pysche!
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Ted Kooser lives in rural Nebraska with his wife, Kathleen, and three dogs. He is one of America's most noted poets, having served two terms as U. S. Poet Laureate and, during the second term, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his collection, DELIGHTS & SHADOWS. He is a retired life insurance executive who now teaches part-time at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. The school board ...more
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