American Life in Poetry: Column 123
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
There is a type of poem, the Found Poem, that records an author’s discovery of the beauty that occasionally occurs in the everyday discourse of others. Such a poem might be words scrawled on a wadded scrap of paper, or buried in the classified ads, or on a billboard by the road. The poet makes it his or her poem by holding it up for us to look at. Here the Washington, D.C., poet Joshua Weiner directs us to the poetry in a letter written not by him but to him.
What makes for a happier life, Josh, comes to this:
Gifts freely given, that you never earned;
Open affection with your wife and kids;
Clear pipes in winter, in summer screens that fit;
Few days in court, with little consequence;
A quiet mind, a strong body, short hours
In the office; close friends who speak the truth;
Good food, cooked simply; a memory that’s rich
Enough to build the future with; a bed
In which to love, read, dream, and re-imagine love;
A warm, dry field for laying down in sleep,
And sleep to trim the long night coming;
Knowledge of who you are, the wish to be
None other; freedom to forget the time;
To know the soul exceeds where it’s confined
Yet does not seek the terms of its release,
Like a child’s kite catching at the wind
That flies because the hand holds tight the line.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Poem copyright © 2006 by Joshua Weiner. Reprinted from “From the Book of Giants,” University of Chicago Press, 2006, by permission of the author.
Introduction copyright © 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.