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Delights and Shadows

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  2,847 ratings  ·  264 reviews

American author Ted Kooser is a master of metaphor, a poet who deftly connects disparate elements of the world and communicates with absolute precision. Critics call him a "haiku-like imagist" and his poems have been compared to Chekov's short stories. In Delights and Shadows, Kooser draws inspiration from the overlooked details of daily life. Quotidian objects like a pegb

Paperback, 87 pages
Published May 1st 2004 by Copper Canyon Press
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Average rating 4.22  · 
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 ·  2,847 ratings  ·  264 reviews

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Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Lawyer
Were it not for the way you taught me to look
at the world, to see the life at play in everything,
I would have been lonely forever.

This quote, the final few lines from the American Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s emotionally charged poem Mother, works equally well as a depiction of how Kooser himself shows the reader ‘life at play’. In this Pulitzer Prize winning collection of poems, Delights & Shadows, we watch life come alive on a grand scale in small observations, and hear the language of the lan
Mar 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-drama
For my second attempt at understanding poetry, I chose to stay home and read an author from my neck of the woods. DELIGHTS AND SHADOWS is a beautiful collection of poems that bring normal, everyday objects to life, embedding within them deeper meanings and subtle stories. Most of the poems feel almost as if my grandfather were still alive, talking to me, sharing whatever wisdom and insight he had about a particular topic, and this brings me great joy and sorrow. The words Ted Kooser—winner of th ...more
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who do not believe they enjoy poetry and those who know they do without reservation
Delights and Shadows: Ted Kooser's Unerring Observations of Life

“I wonder how many people I've looked at all my life and never seen.”― John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

 photo delights-shadows_zpsc1a41ff7.jpg
Delights & Shadows, Ted Kooser, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, Washington, 2004

The appearance of this review marks something very new for me. That happens to be an acknowledgement that I have and do read poetry, though none of you who believe they know me would have ever thought it and those who do not know
Wendi Lee
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ted Kooser is not the kind of poet I normally read. I gravitate toward confessional female poets, starting with my obsession with Sylvia Plath in high school. However, I find myself turning to Kooser's work again and again. His poems are simplistic and graceful, yet brim over with brevity.

In Delights and Shadows, he writes about ageing and the deaths of his mother and grandmother. Domesticity and ordinary objects weigh heavily in Kooser's poetry: a button, a glassware set, an elderly man's tatt
Peycho Kanev
Oct 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry

It has been carefully painted
with the outlines of tools
to show us which belongs where,
auger and drawknife,
claw hammer and crosscut saw,
like the outlines of hands on the walls
of ancient caves in France,
painted with soot mixed with spit
ten thousand years ago
in the faltering firelight of time,
hands borrowed to work on the world
and never returned.
Bjorn Sorensen
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
At first, there seemed to be something missing from these poems - clear tropes, specific details, a feeling of a greater whole surrounding each of these small pieces. But the quiet genius here came flooding in soon enough, the themes of previous generations dying off and the tide of Father Time coming in for the author, the ambitions of youth giving in to the preciousness of moments and outlooks, the delicate cradling of the place one is in right now.

I lived in Iowa for my middle and high schoo
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read his poems, and can't quite figure out how he does it, choosing the exact right words and placing them in the right order, to create such quiet beauty. Not all of his poems move me emotionally, but they all are just quietly and calmly gorgeous and restful and peaceful, zen-like and meditative.

This is the pipe that pierces the dam
that holds back the universe,

that takes off some of the pressure,
keeping the weight of the unknown

from breaking through
and washing us all down the
Dale Harcombe
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. From start to finish I adored this collection of poems. It is easy to understand how this poet won the Pulitzer for poetry. When it comes to favourite poems, I’d be hard pressed to choose because there wasn’t one that didn’t appeal. The imagery and pitch of each poem is perfect.

Here are just a couple of lines from a few poems. From ‘Old Lilacs’ this description of horses.
‘Their long legs are dusty
from standing for months
in winter’s stall, and their eyes
are like a cloudy sky
seen thou
I could easily have read through this anthology in one sitting. But that doesn't mean that this collection lacked depth. It was rather quite the opposite. I found myself immediately immersed in each poem. I hadn't heard of Kooser before, but his poetry was so captivating that I will be sure to seek out other works by this author. His poems, on initial reading, are very literal, straight-forward works. But if reread, as I did more than once, they offer some thoughtful, profound insights. Well wor ...more
David Schaafsma
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
As you can tell from the title, this is a collection of poetry not particularly focused on a topic or form. I am reading a lot of Koser this year, and this one won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005. Like much of his work, its about rural Nebraska, family, portraiture, landscape, in accessible language, prizing metaphor. Think Hugo, Stafford, Wright, Frost, the poetry of place. Kooser is a cancer survivor; here's one from the collection that pertains to those experiences:

At the Cancer Clinic

She is being
Jan 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
If the poems in this collection are people, they would be much like Ted Kooser's 'Mourners' here to say goodbye 'but now they keep saying hello and hello, / peering into each other's faces, / slow to let go of each other's hands.'

These are twilight poems, written from 'his heart gone soft and blue with stories', nostalgic, mournful, celebratory and urgent. In fact it is the sense of emergency instilled in these poems that had me so transfixed.

I am in awe of the perfect economy of words, the el
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads, poetry
I wasn’t familiar with Ted Kooser, a (now former) US poet laureate, but now I’ll be searching out more of his work. This was terrific - he brings such an eye to the world around him. Also, he is a retired life insurance executive, which is the most inspiring thing ever.

My favourites included the first poem, “Walking on Tiptoe” (“There is little spring to our walk,/we are so burdened with responsibility,/all of the disciplinary actions/ that have fallen to us, the punishments,/the killings, and a
Like rime, Kooser's a little like Frost and a little unlike him. He is a poet of the prosaic, lifting the ordinary to extraordinary heights before our very eyes. A bucket of dishwater, his grandmother's radio, a spider on a gravestone, a jar of buttons. Delights in the minutiae of the Midwest, yes, but they resonate and know no borders. Even two-liners are a wonder:


All night, this soft rain from the distant past.
No wonder I sometimes waken as a child.

A master of metaphor, he sees one or
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Every poem in this collection by Nobel Laureate Ted Kooser captures such multi-sensory clarity, it felt like being transported in time and place. Only the very best of poetry does this so well. He creates visual imagery ala Ansel Adams or a painter with the technical skill of Norman Rockwell. He captures moments in words as adeptly as a skilled, veteran novelist. My bookshelves are lonely without a copy of "Delights and Shadows." I'm very eager to check out the rest of his work.
Sep 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Have you ever seen the film Dark City? I'm going to make a very odd analogy.

In that film, a group of awesomely misguided aliens nicknamed The Strangers steal a city's worth of human subjects and move them into their own, separate sort of universe in order to study them. Each night, The Strangers wipe the memories of these humans and exchange memories and pasts between people. A born store clerk wakes up one day and assumes the position of a blue blood millionaire. Buildings rise and fall every n
Jeff Crompton
Apr 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Kooser's poetry reminds me of Billy Collins' in two respects. First of all, it isn't "difficult"; it should be pretty easy to grasp, even for those who don't read much poetry. And like Collins, Kooser is a master of finding beauty and insight in the ordinary. His outlook is more rural that Collins' (Kooser is from Nebraska), and his poetry is more somber; an awareness of our mortality is never far below the surface.

But enough comparisons; this is beautiful poetry. I'll quote a couple of the poem
Joe Haack
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
There is not one wasted word within the covers of Kooser's Pulitzer Awarded volume, his epigraph included: "The Sailor cannot see the North / but knows the Needle can." This quote from a letter of E. Dickinson speaks of the power and necessity of metaphor. It is fitting because Kooser's poetry is a comprehensible art, meant to help his readers experience the world - however mundane - differently. You will never look at lilacs, or your hands as they knot your neck-tie, the same way.

You will revi
Jan 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Kooser's powers of observation are amazing, as is his ability to concisely convey wonder, emotion, amusement, and affection for the small details of the world around him -- that happen to touch on universal shared experience and feeling. These are luminous poems, deceptively simple but intensely well-crafted, without a wrong note or an extra word. No wonder he won the Pulitzer Prize for this. A must-read, and thoroughly accessible while still being deep and thought-provoking.
Jul 24, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry
Modern Poetry

Modern poetry
simply regular sentences with

I find it
and pretentious
and utterly

Feb 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
He's a beautiful writer, of the earth and metaphysical, too. "All night, this soft rain from the distant past./No wonder I sometimes waken as a child."
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Perfect for any of you rural Americans (or very good for any of the rest of you) who are struggling with the Poetry category on a reading challenge. Short, accessible poems that have an impact even if one only catches the surface meanings, but with a depth for those who like to dissect for metaphor, allusion, etc.

Much like Mary Oliver's works... and I also recommend those to beginners.

I would quote, but most of these are v. short stories and vignettes. The whole two verses or 16 lines need to be
James Murphy
Dec 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
When spring came this year it brought nostalgia, first in a book of essays about growing up in the South and here by a poet who finds illumination in the commonplace. Ted Kooser lives in and writes abut Nebraska. The rural environments and small town atmospheres he writes about raise great choirs of memories in me because he writes about the kind of world I knew as a child and young man. And I know that's one of the reasons I like his poetry so much. But he also favors a forceful metaphor and si ...more
Sep 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Pleasant, natural, uncomplicated poems. I have a feeling Ted Kooser is a thoroughly charming and kind man, the sort of person you’d like to have over for dinner and stay talking with you long past an acceptable hour.

Favorite in this collection:

In only a few months
there will begin to be fissures
in what we remember,
and within a year or two,
the facts break apart
one from another
and slowly begin to shift
and turn, grinding,
pushing up over each other
until their shapes
have been changed
and the
May 19, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
Ted Kooser is highly recommended among my friends and this book I borrowed to see what he was all about. Besides Neruda and whatever was assigned in High School or College, I don't consider myself well-read in poetry at all. This was a nice read. Some of the metaphors were amazing to me. Three poems stuck out as masterpieces, but the rest I didn't find as stimulating. I would have been much more impressed if they all read with the same intensity. In all, I really enjoyed this book and it gave me ...more
Texx Norman
Dec 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: poetry
This was just fantastic. I read a lot of poetry and I rate my favorites. Kooser is 1A and Billy Collins is 1B. Kooser poems are like word snapshots that capture a moment of life and remind you of the intensity, depth, and value of beling alive. This is a must read book for poets and even people who think they hate poetry will like this book.
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Kooser's work seems very simplistic, but that is also part of his appeal. These poems are lovely and descript. He paints a vivid landscape with each window he opens.
Nadine Jones
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Ted Kooser specializes in the quotidian. He soothes the reader and says “it’s okay, this is America.” He takes the road most traveled by, but often, the ending is a surprise. Reading these poems feels effortless.

A Box of Pastels
I once held on my knees a simple wooden box
in which a rainbow lay dusty and broken.
It was a set of pastels that had years before
belonged to the painter Mary Cassatt,
and all of the colors she’d used in her work
lay open before me. Those hues she’d most used,
the peaches and
Preston Stell
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Here is one of those Pulitzer Prize winners in the Poetry category...a winner that any non-advanced reader can look at/read and say, “I get it.” Trust me, there are plenty of Prize winners that leave a non-advanced poetry reader saying, “what in God’s name did I just read?” Kooser reflects on grief, death, nature, beauty, but especially ordinariness. Is that a word? You wouldn’t think that the “ordinary” could be so splendid. If Ted Kooser has a unique ability, outside of writing beautiful poems ...more
Phil Jensen
Jun 16, 2020 rated it liked it
A Happy Birthday

This evening, I sat by an open window
and read till the light was gone and the book
was no more than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride this day down into night,
to sit alone and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand.

This is easily the best poem in the book. Most of them contain a beautiful image paired with some personal reflection, often on aging or the past. It got repetitious and formulaic. There is a fine b
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Like the poetry of Mary Oliver, these poems celebrate the extraordinary in the ordinary of the natural world and the poignancy of memory. There is also a lot here about aging. It's just impossible to read Ted Kooser's work and not feel better about life and our experiences.

I've always loved coming across a poem by Kooser—he's so accessible and lovely and optimistic—but this is my first time reading a single collection of his work. My favourite poems were "Father (May 19, 1999)," "Necktie," "Stud
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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 in L ...more

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“a happy birthday

this evening, I sat by an open window
and read till the light was gone and the book
was no more than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride the day down into night,
to sit alone, and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand”
“MOTHER – By Ted Kooser

Mid April already, and the wild plums
bloom at the roadside, a lacy white
against the exuberant, jubilant green
of new grass and the dusty, fading black
of burned-out ditches. No leaves, not yet,
only the delicate, star-petaled
blossoms, sweet with their timeless perfume.

You have been gone a month today
and have missed three rains and one nightlong
watch for tornadoes. I sat in the cellar
from six to eight while fat spring clouds
went somersaulting, rumbling east. Then it poured,
a storm that walked on legs of lightning,
dragging its shaggy belly over the fields.

The meadowlarks are back, and the finches
are turning from green to gold. Those same
two geese have come to the pond again this year,
honking in over the trees and splashing down.

They never nest, but stay a week or two
then leave. The peonies are up, the red sprouts,
burning in circles like birthday candles,
for this is the month of my birth, as you know,
the best month to be born in, thanks to you,
everything ready to burst with living.

There will be no more new flannel nightshirts
sewn on your old black Singer, no birthday card
addressed in a shaky but businesslike hand.

You asked me if I would be sad when it happened
and I am sad. But the iris I moved from your house
now hold in the dusty dry fists of their roots
green knives and forks as if waiting for dinner,
as if spring were a feast. I thank you for that.

Were it not for the way you taught me to look
at the world, to see the life at play in everything,
I would have to be lonely forever.”
More quotes…