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Good Poems for Hard Times (Good Poems)

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,370 Ratings  ·  181 Reviews
When Garrison Keillor published Good Poems, he touched a chord in readers across America. The anthology of poems he selected for their wit, their simplicity, their passion, and their utter clarity in the face of everything else a person has to deal with inspired thousands to buy what was for many their first book of poetry.

Now, in Good Poems for Hard Times, Keillor has p

Hardcover, 344 pages
Published September 8th 2005 by Viking Adult (first published 2005)
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Feb 16, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a collection! So many good ones that I quake with's all too much to take in at one sitting. Savor it then, take it piece by piece and go back to it to see it in the light of another understanding.
Why don't they use this in high school for poetry appreciation instead of the dusty Victorian material of the standard curriculum? Or maybe it hits me right because I'm NOT a high school student but am the age I am!
Jul 23, 2007 shruti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I will admit that half the reason this book is a favorite is because I received it from Keillor himself, autographed and all, right after a Prairie Home Companion show. I had waited in line for tickets, as my parents birthday present, got to sit on stage and was talking to one of the musicians afterwards who was so excited that someone under the age of 40 was a big enough fan to stand in line that she grabbed me, dragged me across the stage and introduced me to Keillor, who shook hands and grabb ...more
I've decided anthologies are the way to go for now while I'm still exploring poetry and it still feels more like homework than desire. No guilt if I don't enjoy a poet, just move on to the next one. No pages and pages of universally acknowledged brilliance that I just don't get (looking at you, e.e. cummings), just turn the page to something new if it's not working for me.

On the flip side, it's got a bit of that one night stand feeling you get from short stories. Just when I'm intrigued and want
Apr 11, 2007 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who does not truly hate the midwest (Poetry Geeks)
Shelves: poetry
I read all of these poems out of order and it was amazing. Right now I'm stuck on the love poetry "Darling I never knew such loving", "Wedding poem for Shel and Phil", "The discovery of sex", and "There comes the strangest moment". But there are other hilarious poems as well. Garrison Keillor's intro is fascinating for those of us who have grown up with "A Prairie Home Companion" but never really known about the man behind the stories.

On one level this is a collection of wonderful poems. Each is
Eric Shaffer
Jun 06, 2014 Eric Shaffer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Okay, a lot of poetry snobs and snots say some snarky stuff about Keillor's anthologies, but I am here to tell you that this is one title that accurately describes the contents of the book: Good Poems. I like the subtitle, but I don't really see that these poems are better for hard times than those in the first volume: both are tres good. I would probably have titled this volume, and I think of it as, More Good Poems. Let me tell you how I know this. I read a lot of poems; I read poems everyday; ...more
JG (The Introverted Reader)
I am not, nor have I ever been, exceptionally qualified to write a review of a collection of poetry. Back in the day, I could probably have muddled out something about rhyme and meter, but high school English is a long way behind me, and I've forgotten anything I ever knew.

But I do like poetry that's pretty straightforward and that says something to me. I have a collection of these that I've probably kept since middle school. Unfortunately, for the number of poems included in the collection, the
Dana Stabenow
Jan 26, 2016 Dana Stabenow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hpl-s-15-in-16
A lot of familiar names with some unfamiliar poems attached to them. I especially like the chapter called Let It Spill for Deborah Spencer's The Discovery of Sex, Steve Kowit's The Prodigal Son's Brother, and Louis Simpson's Al and Beth. This is a fun book to let fall open to its own page and just start reading.

If only Keillor had managed to keep Gertrude Stein out of it I would have called it a perfect anthology.
Tamara Hill Murphy
My daughter bought me this book at a library book sale while she was with my mother in New York this summer. She chose a used book that suited the personality of each person in her family. For me she chose this book of poetry. She handed it to me as I was headed for the airport, and it was the perfect book for my trip (and for several sleepless nights).

Poets included in the anthology are from my all-time favorites: Wendell Berry, Elizabeth Bishop, Billy Collins, e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson,
Cameron Gordon
Garrison Keillor is a crowd pleaser and this is a crowd pleasing collection. As Keillor writes, these are poems that were read on his radio program, so the entries tend to be simple enough to understand after one reading, sometimes with 'punchline' endings. There is some fine poetry in here, a smattering of 'classic' authors, and very nice thumbnails of authors at the end of the book each of which includes a quote from them about writing. However, some of the poetry is not really poetry but ligh ...more
Marian Deegan
Aug 29, 2014 Marian Deegan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a richly varied collection of poems beautifully introduced by that unflappably unhip Minnesota man of letters, Garrison Keillor. The Good Poems were an insistently “non-gift” this holiday season from my friend Stevie Beck, who’d spoken of Keillor’s touching introduction months earlier during one of our “Turtle Coffee” mornings.

In these days when identities and laptops and high-tech gizmos are the preferred swag of the modern thief, there is something reassuringly story-worthy about Keill
Apr 08, 2014 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not a person who is big on poetry.
I was actually pretty proud of this fact as an English major, and I did whatever I could to avoid having to take classes dedicated to the literary form.

It's no surprise. In school, they give you a bunch of Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky until you reach high school. In high school, they give you a bunch of the classics, written in stitled language that you have to translate before you can dig into the poems themselves.

When I became an English teacher, I
Mar 02, 2009 Bruce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 2009-reading
Keillor suggests that these are the kinds of poems that you would send to a friend who was having a tough time. I'm not sure I read them that way. So many are so very, very dark. I was delighted by a few, Cecilia Wolochs Slow Children at Play, and Rita Doves Dawn Revisited. I thought that Donald Halls poem about his wifes death was just haunting and so painful I could barely read it. There is magic in here, but you have to push through a lot of darkness to find it.
Jun 10, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is hands down my favorite book of poems ever and I loooooove poetry. There's something about the healing power of poetry that makes you pause. Poetry makes me feel...alive. Supported. Amazed at the god of small things. This book perfectly encapsulates all the best things about poetry- and Garrison Keillor writes an AMAZING foreword that I would recommend ANYONE read when trying to understand why poetry is a vital part of our literary existence.
Apr 14, 2015 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So many gems! Well thought out collection, and I loved the introduction as a brush up on why poetry matters.

"The meaning of poetry is to give courage. A poem is not a puzzle that you the dutiful reader are obliged to solve. It is meant to poke you, get you to buck up, pay attention, rise and shine, look alive, get a grip, get the picture, pull up your socks, wake up and die right... People complain about the obscurity of poetry, especially if they're assigned to write about it, but actually poet
Mar 08, 2016 Vivian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poetry is not a genre I usually gravitate toward, but as it is a category in a reading challenge I am participating in, I had to dive in. I tried several other books first, but could not finish them for one reason or another... either the poems were abstruse ( or the reader obtuse, lol) , had too many classical allusions which rendered the poem incomprehensible to me,were filled with too much angry feminism, or were just not enjoyable to read (to me). Once I began this collection, however, I fou ...more
Barbara M
Jan 14, 2015 Barbara M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting collection of poems - most of which I never read before. Many of them are deep and meaningful. The theme is good poems for hard times.

We read this book in my book club. For the meeting, each member selected their favorite poem - read it out loud and briefly described why it moved them. Almost every member selected a different poem. It's interesting how poetry works that way - poems have different effects on each of us based on our life experiences. My favorite poem was "At
Aug 04, 2013 Terry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like in his original “Good Poems,” Keillor has exquisite taste when it comes to poetry. Some are thought provoking, some are sad, but overall, they’re just good fun! A good book to have by the bed or other local where you can read one or two a day. Great for those just discovering poetry, and those of us who have been reading poems for a lifetime.
Feb 08, 2011 Christine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-reads
Loved the first collection, Good Poems. Garrison Keillor has such good taste in his selection of poems from his show/blog. I read a poem a day, food for thought and usually for tranquillity at the end of the day.
Took me a while to finish - one poem at a time, but as usual, I knew they would be good slow food for thought poems.
Feb 07, 2012 Rebekah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful, well-crafted,diverse collection from which I will continue sipping indefinitely. Keillor's introduction essay is a compelling defense of poetry, and could stand alone. Both this collection and its introduction would make great teaching tools.
Jan 15, 2009 Jake rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I stole this book from some guy who was hitting on Nate's girlfriend at Leopold's. He got up and went to the bathroom and I stuffed it under my coat and walked out. Yeah, I'm cold like that.
Elaine Meszaros
Dec 03, 2014 Elaine Meszaros rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For regular NPR listeners, Keiller's poem selections may be familiar. These are not hard poems. They don't require you to have read English lit at Oxford or to be able to speak olde Englishe. Nor do they span hundreds of pages, warbling on about woe, despair, dying Ophelia or the terrible weight of love. The poems he has selected are each wonderful, complete gems - a crystal clear thought and scene in a few stanzas. Topics range from the biggies - death, love, old age, to silly limericks and ode ...more
Feb 01, 2014 Rad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good collection of poetry, with a worthwhile introduction in Keillor's typical sensitive, pragmatic, and humorous midwestern fatherly way.

Years ago, while studying critical theory in grad school, I read Dana Gioia's Can Poetry Matter?. Keillor answers this question 20 years later: "...what really matters about poetry and what distinguishes poets from, say, fashion models or ad salesmen is the miracle of incantation in rendering the gravity and grace and beauty of the ordinary world and
Jun 18, 2015 Simon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Poem after poem that do what poems should. I can't think of a part of me, past or present, that hasn't been touched; and the future's been mapped out more than somewhat. The same love of words that makes Prairie Home Companion so companionable is at work here. I loved it and have been conversing in metrical lines since I opened its covers.

A perfect introduction to American poetry for the British reader (though there are some of us in there too...and well-deserved). Like someone who was brought u
Bud Smith
Aug 16, 2014 Bud Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well put together. Containing some startlingly good poems from poets I've never read (and will seek out more work from now) and even some poets I've avoiding reading because they're old and stale. I enjoyed that many of the poems in this anthology were highly narrative and read like snippets of "life" rather than just an assortment of weird wordplay and over my head acrobatics. Keilor's essay that opens the collection is phenomenal. Many a poem in this was dog-earred to return to later. Have ord ...more
Mar 02, 2011 Cara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Any poetry collection that includes Mary Oliver, Lord Alfred Tennyson, and Burma Shave rhymes all together has gotta be good.
Aug 14, 2011 Shira marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I'm a poetry idiot. This was the least bile-inducing anthology I found. Wish me luck!
Mar 04, 2011 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I like how it's dedicated to English teachers.
Jan 26, 2008 Pete rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I love the Burma Shave "poems"...
Apr 04, 2015 Kelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. This collection was more hit-or-miss for me than Good Poems, but still a pleasure to read.

A few favorite excerpts:

"Do you suppose our country would have been settled
If the pioneers had worried about being lonely?"
- Carl Dennis, "Invitation"

"Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth.
What is now proved was once only imagined.
The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbit, watch the roots. The lion,
the tiger, the horse, the elephant, watch the fruits.
The cistern contains; the fountain overflows.
Richard Thompson
Having read Garrison Keillor's selection of poems in his first GOOD POEMS book, we were expecting that in a book of "poems for hard times" that a lot of the poems — most — would be uplifting, inspiring, funny, and heartwarming, but this collection is more lyrical look at what makes the times hard than a salve to the battered soul. One gets the impression from the introduction that Keillor sees the early 21st Century in America as a hard place to be alive.

We still enjoyed the book. Just not quite
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Garrison Keillor (born Gary Edward Keillor on August 7, 1942 in Anoka, Minnesota) is an American author, storyteller, humorist, columnist, musician, satirist, and radio personality. He is known as host of the Minnesota Public Radio show "A Prairie Home Companion".

Keillor was born in Anoka, Minnesota, the son of Grace Ruth (née Denham) and John Philip Keillor, who was a carpenter and postal worker.
More about Garrison Keillor...

Other Books in the Series

Good Poems (3 books)
  • Good Poems
  • Good Poems: American Places

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