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Good Poems for Hard Times (Good Poems)

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  2,498 Ratings  ·  196 Reviews
Chosen by Garison Keillor for his readings on public radio's The Writer's Almanac, the 185 poems in this follow-up to his acclaimed anthology Good Poems are perfect for our troubled times. Here, readers will find solace in works that are bracing and courageous, organized into such resonant headings as "Such As It Is More or Less" and "Let It Spill." From William Shakespear ...more
Paperback, 344 pages
Published August 29th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

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Jan 31, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
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
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
Oct 22, 2014 Erin rated it liked it
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
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
May 19, 2014 Eric Shaffer rated it it was amazing
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
Tamara Hill
Jan 08, 2016 Tamara Hill rated it really liked it
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,
Jun 09, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
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.
Dana Stabenow
Jan 26, 2016 Dana Stabenow rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 27, 2009 Bruce rated it liked it
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.
Jul 03, 2013 Terry rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 15, 2010 Christine rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 11, 2011 Rebekah rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 04, 2011 Erin rated it it was amazing
I like how it's dedicated to English teachers.
Aug 14, 2011 Shira marked it as to-read
I'm a poetry idiot. This was the least bile-inducing anthology I found. Wish me luck!
Jan 26, 2008 Pete rated it it was ok
I love the Burma Shave "poems"...
Sep 02, 2010 Cara rated it it was amazing
Any poetry collection that includes Mary Oliver, Lord Alfred Tennyson, and Burma Shave rhymes all together has gotta be good.
Jan 15, 2009 Jake rated it liked it
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.
Mar 06, 2017 Shannon rated it really liked it
After reading this, I feel inspired to write a little poetry myself.
My favorites:
p. 35 Passengers by Billy Collins
p. 107 The Courage That my Mother Had by Edna St. Vincent Millay
p. 139 Happiness by Michael Van Walleghen
p. 164 Berryman by W.S. Merwin
p. 217 Not Only the Eskimos by Lisel Mueller
p. 275 In Praise of My Bed by Meredith Holmes (I've always felt this way!)
p. 293 Crossing the Bar by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

What were your favorites?
Aug 07, 2014 Kelly rated it liked it
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.
Phil Call
Jul 19, 2013 Phil Call rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I acquired this book early on in my time at Ball State, read it voraciously, and have returned to it regularly ever since. I love how poems are little snippets of thought, comfort, and other things that one can devour quickly and then leave to roam in your head for a while.

The poems in this book are not written by the author, Garrison Keillor. Rather, Keillor is the editor and selected the poems for the book from excellent ones he's read for his regular radio program, The Writer's Almanac, wher
Feb 28, 2017 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Loved it just as much as the first book in the series!!! His selections really draw me in as a reader.
Apr 08, 2014 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: modern-lit, poems
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
Linda LaRoche
Jan 08, 2013 Linda LaRoche rated it it was ok
Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times opens with an amazing introduction but then drifts into cynicism. Still it depicts what is already taking place. "You lie in a hotel bed at night, remote in hand and surf a hundred channels of television. . . and you can drift for hours among the flotsam and you will never see anything that shows that you're in Knoxville or Seattle or Santa Fe or Chicago and nobody will ever speak to you as straightforwardly and clearly as poetry does."
He opines that
Peter Derk
Jul 19, 2011 Peter Derk rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Hey, what are you going to do?

It’s an anthology. The problem with every anthology is that it’s not going to please everybody all the time, which means it kind of ultimately pleases nobody, right?

Garrison Keillor, for all his lake business, does a decent job of selecting poetry. Really. This book and its precursor, Good Poems, are both filled with some really excellent material. The biggest downfall, for me personally, is the inclusion of super-traditional stuff, Bible verses, for example. And I'
Picture  Perfect
I really loved this collection of poems. I loved the introduction too...a lot.

Here are some of my favorite poems from the collection:

Or Death and December by George Garrett on pg. 8
A Poem for Emily by Miller Williams on pg. 11
For a Five-Year Old by Fleur Adcock on pg 12
The Goose by Muriel Spark on pg. 14
A Dialogue of Watching by Kenneth Rexroth on pg 21
The State of the Economy by Louis Jenkins on pg. 27
The Summer Camp Bus Pulls Away From the Curb by Sharon Olds on pg. 37
To David, About His Educ
Marian Deegan
Aug 29, 2014 Marian Deegan rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 01, 2014 Rad rated it really liked it
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
Barbara M
Jan 01, 2015 Barbara M rated it really liked it
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 12, 2009 Petie rated it it was amazing
Alright, I finished...after just randomly opening it up and reading a poem or two here & there...I then sat down and went through for missing ones and to reread faves (Happiness, A Dialogue of Watching, The Happiest Day, Toast, Wedding Poem For Schele and Phil, To a Frustrated Poet, Ordinary Life, (2nd) Happiness, The Benefits of Ignorance...OK enough of naming just about every other poem and only being halfway through.

BUY/BEG/BORROW/STEAL this book. Oh, and I think the title should just be:
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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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