As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

September 28, 2015

SPLITTING AN ORDER by Ted Kooser, 2014

Pulitzer Prize winner and best selling poet Ted Kooser calls attention to the intimacies of life through commonplace objects and occurrences: an elderly couple sharing a sandwich is a study in transcendent love, while a tattered packet of spinach seeds calls forth innate human potential. This long-awaited collection from the former U.S. Poet Laureate—ten years in the making—is rich with quiet and profound magnificence. (Goodreads)

Julie, children's literature enthusiast and pop culture geek

For even the most avid reader, the word "poetry" might evoke shudders and horrible memories of deciphering rhyme schemes and interpreting hazy symbols.  But poetry can be a lot more accessible than readers might think.  When the focus is on beautiful language, used to immortalize everyday events, poetry is a lot more palatable and, dare I say, even a thrill to read.  One of my favorite recent works is SPLITTING AN ORDER by Ted Kooser, Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate of the United States.

SPLITTING AN ORDER succeeds in the way it takes seemingly small, mundane events--and makes them beautiful.  Kooser is a master of language, and he uses it as a tool to take the average and make it evocative.  For example, in "Two Men on an Errand," a normal man transforms into "a balloon of a man . .  . with some of the life let out of him" who "sags" in a car repair shop's waiting room, although his fists, "white boulders, alabaster," show hints of remaining strength.  Here, Kooser shows that condensed language can still tell--or at least, suggest--a fantastic story.  The poems' titles hint at the variety of subjects and inspirations: "At Arby's, At Noon," "110th Birthday," "The Woman Whose Husband Was Dying," and "Painting the Barn," among others.  Each one can be quickly devoured and easily digested, but I recommend slow, thorough savoring.

My favorite piece in SPLITTING AN ORDER is not actually a poem, but a short essay called "Small Rooms in Time."  In this piece, Kooser reflects on a crime, the murder of a fifteen-year-old boy in a house where Kooser himself had previously lived.  What follows is a moving, honest examination of violence intruding upon safety, as well as nostalgia's lasting influence throughout periods of change.  The combination of these two ideas results in a jarring, emotional piece in which Kooser urges us to "think about the way in which the rooms we inhabit, if only for a time, become unchanging places within us, complete with detail.

Check out SPLITTING AN ORDER for a short, but satisfying read.  Kooser's works always help remind me why I love language.

Market: Adult poetry--appropriate for YA too
Violence:  Aside from the crime in the essay referenced above, none
Language:  Appropriate and beautiful
Sensuality:  Moments of romance, nothing overtly sensual
Adult Themes:  Love, aging

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