Ted Kooser: An American Life in Poetry, June 18, 2017

Ted Kooser: An American Life in Poetry, June 18, 2017

By TED KOOSER
U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-06

Kelly Madigan lives in Nebraska and this poem is from her book, "The Edge of Known Things," from Stephen F. Austin University Press.

Did you think that you were all that different from a porcupine? Well, poetry reaches for and seizes upon connections, and here's an example of that.

'Porcupine'

You think we are the pointed argument,

the man drunk at the party showing off

his gun collection, the bed of nettles.

What we really are is hidden from you:

girl weeping in the closet among her stepfather's boots;

tuft of rabbit fur caught in barbed wire; body of the baby

in the landfill; boy with the shy mouth playing his guitar

at the picnic table, out in the dirt yard.

We slide into this world benign and pliable,

quills pressed down smooth over back and tail.

Only one hour here stiffens the barbs into thousands

of quick retorts. Everything this well-guarded

remembers being soft once.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (http://www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem, copyright 2013, is reprinted by permission of Kelly Madigan and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2017 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as U.S. poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-06. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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