poem index


Good Poems


Penguin Books




Good Poems, ed. by Garrison Keillor
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Understanding that "the radio audience is not the devout sisterhood you find at poetry readings, leaning forward, lips pursed, hanky in hand," editor/radio personality Garrison Keillor has offered "a book of poems that got read over the radio on a daily five-minute show called The Writer's Almanac." And his compilation could be as simple and innocuous (not to mention "homespun" and as even-tempered as Keillor's imagined world in A Prairie Home Companion) as one would expect, if not for the delightful diversity in poets featured.

Conveniently divided into thematic sections like "Lovers," "Music," "Trips," and "Snow," the poems themselves aren't necessarily the work of typically canonized poets; lesser-known poets like Joseph Shroud, Kay Ryan, J.F. Hendry, Liz Rosenberg, and Howard Moss are included in Good Poems, suggesting Keillor's tastes in poetry aren't limited to the classroom curriculum.

Granted, the likes of Billy CollinsRobert BlyElizabeth BishopW.S. Merwin, and Sharon Olds are all here, but Keillor shares their poems that we might not already be familiar with (such as W.H. Auden's "At Last the Secret Is Out," or May Swenson's "Bison Crossing Near Mt. Rushmore").

Keillor's general aim is to share poems with "stickiness, memorability, [which] is one sign of a good poem." Excluding T.S. Eliot, whom he calls "the great stuffed owl," and Allen Ginsberg, "a good man" but "something of a gasbag," the editor wishes to engage us with storytellers we might as winsomely enjoy had we heard them read over the radio, while "frying eggs and sausage and reading the paper"--something even seasoned poetry readers might appreciate.


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