Guest Post: Author Beth Hoffman Shares Her Favorite Poem by Ted Kooser

Today, I’ve got a real treat.  Not only is one of my new favorite authors — Beth Hoffman, author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt — visiting today, but she’s also sharing her love of a poem written by one of my favorite poets — Ted Kooser, a former U.S. Poet Laureate (2004 – 2006).

I adore both of these writers immensely, and I’m so glad that today for National Poetry Month, they’ll be sharing the same space.  Without further ado, please give Beth a warm welcome.

In a letter to George Bainton, dated 1/15/1888, Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) wrote: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

I believe that statement to be true (and an ideal goal) in all writing, but especially in poetry. For an ill-chosen word that goes unnoticed or is forgivable in longer writings, surely is a disastrous bump in poetry.

Word selection, imagery, and variations of tone through word values and sounds are vital to a poet’s successful composition. It is with these thoughts that I have selected to highlight my favorite work by poet laureate Ted Kooser. Mr. Kooser ranks high among the nation’s most esteemed poets and served as the United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 – 2006. He also won the Pulitzer Prize for his book of poems, Delights & Shadows (Copper Canyon Press, 2004).

While countless poems have moved me to a state of wonder, it is a poem from Ted Kooser’s collection Flying at Night: Poems 1965-1985 (University of Pittsburgh Press) that evokes not only powerful imagery, but a delicacy of sadness and loss that is, in my opinion, visceral and genius. In a scant 126 perfectly selected words, he tells an entire story I never tire of reading, and I’d like to share it here.

A Room in the Past
by Ted Kooser

It’s a kitchen. Its curtains fill
with a morning light so bright
you can’t see beyond its windows
into the afternoon. A kitchen
falling through time with its things
in their places, the dishes jingling
up in the cupboard, the bucket
of drinking water rippled as if
a truck had just gone past, but that truck
was thirty years. No one’s at home
in this room. Its counter is wiped,
and the dishrag hangs from its nail,
a dry leaf. In housedresses of mist,
blue aprons of rain, my grandmother
moved through this life like a ghost,
and when she had finished her years,
she put them all back in their places
and wiped out the sink, turning her back
on the rest of us, forever.

Thanks so much, Beth.

Author Beth Hoffman

About the Author:

Beth Hoffman, a New York Times bestselling author, was the president and owner of a major interior design studio in Cincinnati, Ohio, before turning to writing full time. She lives with her husband and two cats in a quaint historic district in Newport, Kentucky. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is her first novel.



Poet Ted Kooser

About the Poet:Ted Kooser was the United States Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006 and won a Pulitzer Prize for his book of poems DELIGHTS AND SHADOWS. He is the author of twelve full-length volumes of poetry and several books of nonfiction, and his work has appeared in many periodicals. This is his first children’s book. He lives in Garland, Nebraska.Barry Root has illustrated many books for children, including THE CAT WHO LIKED POTATO SOUP by Terry Farish and THE BIRTHDAY TREE by Paul Fleischman. He lives in Quarryville, Pennsylvania.

***For today’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour, please visit with Read Handed.***


  1. I love Ted Kooser! I was just going on and on about his poem, “A Rainy Morning.”

  2. What a wonderful post. I love getting a glimpse into Beth’s poetry tastes. And I admit that I did enjoy the poem she chose to feature.

  3. That is a wonderful poem and evoked a painful longing for my own Grandmother!

  4. Wonderful poem, especially the end. Thank you for introducing me to a new poet 🙂
    And I have heard nothing but good things about Saving CeeCee.

  5. I really enjoyed this poem. It calls to mind the exact feeling I felt when walking into my husband’s grandmother’s house right after she passed away. She lived in that house for over 50 years. It smelled like bacon, all the time every time we visited… each item had its place. Soap sponge, cast iron skillet, etc. Eventually, that home was leveled when the new owners bought it. So sad.

  6. Loved this poem! I’ve been a fan of Kooser’s since I read Delights & Shadows last year, but I really need to read more of his work.

  7. That’s a beautiful poem – it brought tears to my eyes.

  8. Yes, that ending of the poem really hits you in the gut! And such a great line about the difference between lightning and lightning bug!

  9. Beth Hoffman says

    Thank you so much for inviting me to take part in National Poetry Month. I’m honored to contribute to your blog, Serena!

    Hi Tea! I’m glad you enjoyed this poem. I adore it.

  10. The poem is so beautiful. I felt a soft peace while reading the poem. These are my favorite lines:

    when she had finished her years,
    she put them all back in their places
    and wiped out the sink, turning her back
    on the rest of us, forever.

    Beth, I should have known you would pick a lovely poem. Thank you.