If you’ve been following along, you know I now live in Loma, NE, population currently 28. It’s too small for its own ZIP Code, so my mailing address is technically in Dwight, seven miles away. Dwight itself is so small, it has vaguely one block of downtown. Here are three photos I snapped there today.
The tan brick building is the post office, open 8am–noon weekdays, 9–9:45am Saturdays (yes, a quaint 45 minutes). The pale yellow building is an American Legion Hall, where I helped a guy in his 70s unload a van-full of food for a funeral last week. And that’s my ’91 Jeep Wrangler Sport.
Just past the south intersection is a recycling bin. Living in Wisconsin we got into the habit (and it keeps the “burn bin” on the farm free from tin cans).
And strangely, just around the corner on my walk to the recycling bin is former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s private studio.
While I prefer later US Poet Laureate Billy Collins’ subtlety and humor to Kooser’s more straightforward style, I do respect Kooser’s workmanship. Former Wisconsin Poet Laureate Ellen Kort once introduced me to Kooser at a reading: “Ted, this is Lester Smith, current president of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.” Kooser glanced at me, said, “Oh,” then turned back to Kort and said, “Shouldn’t we get this reading going?”
He then delivered an opening speech that inspired me to write this sonnet (recently revised):
Kooser said he’s had his fill of poetry,
couldn’t bear to cross the hall if Homer
came back from the dead to read. No more
than for John Keats’s ode on Grecian pottery.
What could make our laureate portray
for centuries of verse such frank ennui,
forget his post, invent himself anew?
(He said that kids’ books are his next priority.)
What provokes a poet to leave his worship,
turn a deaf ear to his muse, and so forth?
Has our laureate become deluded?
By degrees, a sea of college workshops
still churns out a flood of verse, a froth
of ink. Has Kooser’s blood become diluted?