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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.***

Mailbox Monday #142

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  This month our host is Amused by Books.  Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.  Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  My God, What Have We Done? by Susan V. Weiss for a TLC Book Tour at the end of September.

2. Devil Sent the Rain by Tom Piazza for review.

Books I purchased:

3. Black Hills by Dan Simmons

4. The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries: Origins by L.J. Smith

5. The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries: Bloodlust by L.J. Smith

6. The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries: The Craving by L.J. Smith

7. The Phantom of Pemberley by Regina Jeffers

8. Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory

9. Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman for my mom.

10. Blue Bloods: Keys to the Repository by Melissa de la Cruz

11. Misguided Angel by Melissa de la Cruz

What did you receive this week?

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Beth Hoffman‘s debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, has become a New York Times bestseller, and what a debut it is.  Her novel is a prime example of what’s great about southern fiction from the enveloping summer heat of Georgia to the fragrant aroma of orchids and other flowers.  CeeCee Honeycutt is a young girl living in Ohio mainly with her mother as her father travels weekly for his job, but she’s got more worries than just school and peer pressure — her mother is slowly losing her grip.

“‘Oysters are a lot like women.  It’s how we survive the hurts in life that brings us strength and gives us our beauty.’  She fell silent for a moment and gazed out the window.  ‘They say there’s no such thing as a perfect pearl — that nothing from nature can ever be truly perfect.'”  (page 255)

Eventually, CeeCee comes to live with her great aunt Tallulah “Tootie” Caldwell, who is a busy society woman interested in preserving the historical structures in Savannah.  In many ways the restoration of these homes resembles the rebuilding CeeCee must accomplish after her life is irrevocably altered.  At the young age of 12, CeeCee must contend with tragedy, being an outcast, the confusing emotions about her parents, and fitting in with a society that is foreign to her.

“Momma left her red satin shoes in the middle of the road.  That’s what three eyewitnesses told the police.”  (Page 1)

Hoffman creates dynamic characters in CeeCee, Mrs. Odell, Oletta, and Tootie, but she also has crafted a supporting cast of eccentric older women who are neighbors and have their own problems and tensions with one another.  Picture large hats, garden parties, and soirees, and you’ll be transported in CeeCee’s Georgia, away from her hometown in Ohio.

“The bedsheets were damp with humidity and sleep, and from the pillowcase I detected a familiar scent:  it was just like the lavender sachets Mrs. Odell made every year as Christmas gifts.  I rubbed my eyes and tried to sit up, but I was nestled deep in the feather bed, like a baby bird in a nest.”  (page 57)

“Though she’d long since passed the zenith of youth, unmistakable remnants of a mysterious beauty oozed from the pores of her porcelain-white skin.  Swirling around her ankles, as light as smoke and the color of midnight, was a silk caftan splashed with bits of silver glitter.”  (page 81)

Readers will be absorbed in CeeCee’s evolution from young, responsible woman caring for her mother to a mischievous child lashing out and back to a young lady becoming content in her own skin.  Hoffman does an excellent job of painting Georgia and its traditional society in a nostalgic hue that enables readers to grasp that CeeCee is remembering this period of her life fondly and with greater clarity than she probably did as a child.  Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is captivating debut novel and coming-of-age story about a young lady who has lost her way, only to find a new chapter has begun.

About the Author:

Beth Hoffman 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.

Thanks to Penguin and Inkwell Management for sending me a free copy of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt for review.

Check out the other tour stops:

5/17 & 5/18 – Devourer of Books

5/19 & 5/20 – Diary of an Eccentric

5/21 – Savvy Verse & Wit

5/22 – Medieval Bookworm

5/23 – lit*chick

5/24 – A Novel Menagerie

5/25 – The Tome Traveller’s Weblog

5/26 – Peeking Between the Pages

5/27 – Steph Su Reads

5/28 – Galleysmith

5/29 – The Literate Housewife Review

Giveaway details — three copies for US/Canada readers and one copy for an international reader:

1.  Leave a comment about why you want to read this book; don’t forget to let me know if you are living outside the United States or Canada.

2.  Leave a comment on the guest post.

3.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or otherwise spread the word about the giveaway and leave a comment on this post.

4.  Become a Facebook fan of the blog and leave a comment.

Deadline is June 2, 2010, at 11:59 PM EST.

This is my 33rd book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.