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Good Poems
Cover of Good Poems
Good Poems
by Various
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Every day people tune in to The Writer's Almanac on public radio and hear Garrison Keillor read them a poem. And here, for the first time, is an anthology of poems from the show, chosen by the narrator for their wit, their frankness, their passion, their "utter clarity in the face of everything else a person has to deal with at 7 a.m."

The title Good Poems comes from common literary parlance. For writers, it's enough to refer to somebody having written a good poem. Somebody else can worry about greatness. Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese" is a good poem, and so is James Wright's "A Blessing." Regular people love those poems. People read them aloud at weddings, people send them by e-mail.

Good Poems includes poems about lovers, children, failure, everyday life, death, and transcendance. It features the work of classic poets, such as Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Robert Frost, as well as the work of contemporary greats such as Howard Nemerov, Charles Bukowski, Donald Hall, Billy Collins, Robert Bly, and Sharon Olds. It's a book of poems for anybody who loves poetry whether they know it or not.

Every day people tune in to The Writer's Almanac on public radio and hear Garrison Keillor read them a poem. And here, for the first time, is an anthology of poems from the show, chosen by the narrator for their wit, their frankness, their passion, their "utter clarity in the face of everything else a person has to deal with at 7 a.m."

The title Good Poems comes from common literary parlance. For writers, it's enough to refer to somebody having written a good poem. Somebody else can worry about greatness. Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese" is a good poem, and so is James Wright's "A Blessing." Regular people love those poems. People read them aloud at weddings, people send them by e-mail.

Good Poems includes poems about lovers, children, failure, everyday life, death, and transcendance. It features the work of classic poets, such as Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Robert Frost, as well as the work of contemporary greats such as Howard Nemerov, Charles Bukowski, Donald Hall, Billy Collins, Robert Bly, and Sharon Olds. It's a book of poems for anybody who loves poetry whether they know it or not.

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Recommended for you

Excerpts-
  • From the book Poem in Thanks

    Thomas Lux


    Lord Whoever, thank you for this air

    I'm about to in- and exhale, this hutch

    in the woods, the wood for fire,

    the light-both lamp and the natural stuff

    of leaf-back, fern, and wing.

    For the piano, the shovel

    for ashes, the moth-gnawed

    blankets, the stone-cold water

    stone-cold: thank you.

    Thank you, Lord, coming for

    to carry me here-where I'll gnash

    it out, Lord, where I'll calm

    and work, Lord, thank you

    for the goddamn birds singing!


    How Many Nights

    Galway Kinnell


    How many nights

    have I lain in terror,

    O Creator Spirit, Maker of night and day,


    only to walk out

    the next morning over the frozen world

    hearing under the creaking of snow

    faint, peaceful breaths...

    snake,

    bear, earthworm, ant...


    and above me

    a wild crow crying 'yaw yaw yaw'

    from a branch nothing cried from ever in my life.


    Welcome Morning

    Anne Sexton


    There is joy

    in all:

    in the hair I brush each morning,

    in the Cannon towel, newly washed,

    that I rub my body with each morning,

    in the chapel of eggs I cook

    each morning,

    in the outcry from the kettle

    that heats my coffee

    each morning,

    in the spoon and the chair

    that cry "hello there, Anne"

    each morning,

    in the godhead of the table

    that I set my silver, plate, cup upon

    each morning.


    All this is God,

    right here in my pea-green house

    each morning

    and I mean,

    though often forget,

    to give thanks,

    to faint down by the kitchen table

    in a prayer of rejoicing

    as the holy birds at the kitchen window

    peck into their marriage of seeds.


    So while I think of it,

    let me paint a thank-you on my palm

    for this God, this laughter of the morning,

    lest it go unspoken.


    The Joy that isn't shared, I've heard,

    dies young.


    Psalm 23

    from The Bay Psalm Book


    The Lord to me a shepherd is,

    want therefore shall not I:

    He in the folds of tender grass,

    doth cause me down to lie:

    To waters calm me gently leads

    restore my soul doth he:

    He doth in paths of righteousness

    for his name's sake lead me.

    Yea, though in valley of death's shade

    I walk, none ill I'll fear:

    Because thou art with me, thy rod,

    and staff my comfort are.

    For me a table thou hast spread,

    in presence of my foes:

    Thou dost anoint my head with oil;

    my cup it overflows.

    Goodness and mercy surely shall

    all my days follow me:

    And in the Lord's house I shall dwell

    so long as days shall be.


    At Least

    Raymond Carver


    I want to get up early one more morning,

    before sunrise. Before the birds, even.

    I want to throw cold water on my face

    and be at my work table

    when the sky lightens and smoke

    begins to rise from the chimneys

    of the other houses.

    I want to see the waves break

    on this rocky beach, not just hear them

    break as I did all night in my sleep.

    I want to see again the ships

    that pass through the Strait from every

    seafaring country in the world-

    old, dirty freighters just barely moving along,

    and the swift new cargo vessels

    painted...

Table of Contents-
  • Good Poems

    Introduction

    1. O Lord
    Poem in Thanks—Thomas Lux
    How Many Nights—Galway Kinnel
    Welcome Morning—Anne Sexton
    Psalm 23—from The Bay Psalm Book
    At Least—Raymond Carver
    Address to the Lord—John Berryman
    O Karma, Dharma, pudding and pie—Philip Appleman
    Psalm—Reed Whittemore
    Psalm 121—Michael Wigglesworth
    When one has lived a long time alone—Galway Kinnell
    Home on the Range—Anonymous
    What I Want Is—C. G. Hanzlicek

    2. A Day
    Summer Morning—Charles Simic
    Otherwise—Jane Kenyon
    Poem About Morning—William Meredith
    Living—Denise Levertov
    Another Spring—Kenneth Rexroth
    Morning Person—Vassar Miller
    Routine—Arthur Guiterman
    The Life of a Day—Tom Hennen
    For My Son, Noah, Ten Years Old—Robert Bly
    I've known a Heaven, like a Tent—Emily Dickinson
    Letter to N.Y.—Elizabeth Bishop
    Dilemna—David Budbill
    from Song of Myself—Walt Whitman
    New Yorkers—Edward Field
    Soaking Up Sun—Tom Hennen
    Late Hours—Lisel Mueller

    3. Music
    Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey—Hayden Carruth
    Mehitabel's Song—Don Marquis
    Nightclub—Billy Collins
    Alley Violinist—Robert Lax
    Cradle Song—Jim Schley
    Her Door—Mary Leader
    The Pupil—Donald Justice
    Piano—D. H. Lawrence
    Insrument of Choice—Robert Phillips
    Homage: Doo-Wop—Joseph Stroud
    The Persistence of Song—Howard Moss
    Ooly Pop a Cow—David Huddle
    Elevator Music—Henry Taylor
    The Grain of Sound—Robert Morgan
    I Will Make You Brooches—Robert Louis Stevenson
    The Dance—C. K. Williams
    The Investment—Robert Frost
    The Dumka—B. H. Fairchild
    The Green Street Mortuary Marching Band—Lawrence Ferlinghetti

    4. Scenes
    Poem to Be Read at 3 A.M.—Donald Justice
    The Swimming Pool—Thomas Lux
    Dostoevsky—Charles Bukowski
    After a Movie—Henry Taylor
    Summer Storm—Dana Gioia
    Woolworth's—Mark Irwin
    Worked Late on a Tuesday Night—Deborah Garrison
    The Farmhouse—Reed Whittemore
    wrist-wrestling father—Orval Lund
    Yorkshiremen in Pub Gardens—Gavin Ewart
    Noah—Roy Daniells

    5. Lovers
    A Red, Red Rose—Robert Burns
    When I Heard at the Close of Day—Walt Whitman
    First Love—John Clare
    He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven—W. B. Yeats
    Sonnet—C. B. Trail
    Politics—W. B. Yeats
    Magellan Street, 1974—Maxine Kumin
    Animals—Frank O'Hara
    Lending Out Books—Hal Sirowitz
    The Changed Man—Robert Phillips
    The Constant North—J. F. Hendry
    On the Strength of All Conviction and the Stamina of Love—Jennifer Michael Hecht
    The Loft—Richard Jones
    This Is Just to Say—William Carlos Williams
    This Is Just to Say—Erica-Lynn Gambino
    Venetian Air—Thomas Moore
    Summer Morning—Louis Simpson
    Comin...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 30, 2002
    Poetry is a regular feature on Garrison Keillor's NPR radio show A Prairie Home Companion, but for the last five years, it has formed the core of The Writer's Almanac, a daily, five-minute, 7 a.m. show on which Keillor reads a poem. Good Poems selects 350 pieces of verse from among the thousands that have been read on the Almanac for "Stickiness, memorability.... You hear it and a day later some of it is still there in the brainpan." Divided by subject-beginning with "O Lord," moving through "Day's Work," "Sons and Daughters" and through to "The End" and "The Resurrection"-the book includes work by writers past (Burns, Dickinson, Bishop, Williams, Shakespeare) and present: Robert Hass, Lisel Mueller, Tom Disch, among many others. Keillor will do a four-city tour in support of the book, and of the paperback release of his Lake Wobegon Summer 1956.

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