Ted Kooser's Poetry Stole my Dad's Heart

I’ve been writing, reading, loving poetry since I was young. This love was largely given to me from my mother, whose recitation of verse and enthusiasm for rhyme inspired me to write my own. My father has always of course been proud of me, very supportive and always willing to read my poetry, but poetry itself has never been a particular delight of his. Unless you count Homer’s Odyssey, which he did read to us infrequently, though the English translation is not particularly poetic.

Then one day my mother,
Rebecca J. Gomez (whose account of this day is spot-on) and I enlisted him as a chauffeur to drive us two hours west to a poetry reading from Ted Kooser. I didn’t expect to him enjoy it at all. And I was thoroughly delighted (and a bit perplexed), when I sensed my father’s immense enjoyment at the simple, down-to-earth verse that Ted Kooser read that evening.

I’ll admit I felt a bit jealous, which is, to be fair, a common emotion I experience when reading or hearing beautiful poetry. But this time I felt my usual swell of inspiration to pursue my craft, not only so I could perhaps master my own poetic voice the way Kooser does, but so that one day, just maybe, I’d write a poem that would affect my father in that same way.

And as is usual for me, I decided to work out these feelings in a poem, and after many drafts, came to a conclusion which I think is best expressed in the poem itself, which you can read below.
“I used to wish my dad loved me like he loves Ted Kooser.”
And by Ted Kooser and me, I mean our poetry.
We dragged my father to a reading. Ted read slow
and he read well. My dad breathed deeply and
wet his eyes at his words. On the way home,
he spoke of nothing else. I searched through my mind—
my catalogue of poems penned, wondered which
would fill Dad with this same inspiration, and faltered.
Later I found a picture in my closet.
He holds me on my first day on this earth.
His eyes are bright as if he has just seen
everything there is to see, and I am swaddled close
to his grin. How could the words I write
eclipse that moment? How could anything compare
to the miraculous moment of first breath,
a babe crying out from the coldness of this new air,
than a first child beheld in a father’s eyes?
I am an infuriating creature, to have not seen
it before. His eyes wet from Ted Kooser’s
soft, fresh poetry, the exhalations at his words…
There, at the reading, where we’d pulled him
from the comfort of his home, he’d been born,
and poetry, for the smallest point in time, had
been his breath.
Isn’t it wonderful to see someone you love find joy in something you love, even if it is something as simple as this? I am so grateful for moments like these that I can treasure forever, and nearly as grateful that I have a pen and a paper who can help me preserve their life on the page.


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