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On Our Bookshelves:
Good Poems

BOOK: Good Poems

EDITOR: Garrison Keillor

YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2002

REVIEW:

This collection of poetry, selected by Garrison Keillor from the poems that he’s read on public radio on The Writer’s Almanac, is just what it says it is: good poems. Idiosyncratic in his taste, Keillor chose selections for their brevity, clarity, simplicity, memorability, and accessibility.   Many of them tell a story…of love, or tragedy, or myth, or history. Of a beautiful morning, of everyday happiness, of work, of forgiveness, of loneliness, of argument. There are much-anthologized classics here (he’s rather heavy on Emily Dickinson), and poets Keillor once “cocked a snoot at,” but now admires, like Raymond Carver and Charles Bukowski. His introduction is forcefully opinionated, and fun to read, even if you disagree with his conclusions (Walt Whitman being the “Typhoid Mary of American Lit,” T. S. Eliot “the great stuffed owl” whose work is “rather bloodless,” Allen Ginsburg as “something of a gasbag,” and so on).

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Keillor claims that the hidden subtitle of the book is a conspiracy of friendliness (all literary criticism aside for once) and quotes Kenneth Rexroth: “The mature man lives quietly, does good privately, assumes personal responsibility for his actions, treats others with friendliness and courtesy, finds mischief boring and keeps out of it. Without this hidden conspiracy of good will, society would not endure an hour.” Good poems, then: high praise, indeed.

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He also helpfully includes short biographies of the poets featured within, so if you find that a taste of something here is to your liking, you can quite easily learn more.

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Buy yourself a copy for the sheer pleasure of it. You will be rewarded many times over when you read it and then again when you find yourself seeking inspirational words for a wedding toast, a eulogy, or an awards ceremony. Or use it to start your own, personal, idiosyncratic anthology…with a few poems from this book, some half-remembered from your childhood but now instantly searchable online, a few that pop up on social media, a few wherever else you find them.  We are, most of us, lovers of poetry, even if we don’t all know it just yet.

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RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 4 Whistles

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HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon

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Up At the Villa, W. Somerset Maugham

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Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com

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Lead-In Image Courtesy of Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com