What I’m reading: Good Poems: American Places

Good Poems: American Places - Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor


How can you not like a book of poetry that includes “Ode to Hardware Stores” by Barbara Hamby; “John Green Takes His Warner, New Hampshire, Neighbor to a Red Sox Game” by Maxine Kumin; and “Bronco Busting, Event #1” by May Swenson?

There’s something so down-to-earth about Good Poems: American Places, a poetry-doesn’t-have-to-be-a-big-deal compilation. No surprise that it’s edited by Garrison Keillor, an American storyteller known for honoring America and its inhabitants.

A tidbit from the collection: 

The Junior High School Band Concert

By David Wagoner 

When our semi-conductor
Raised his baton, we sat there
Gaping at Marche Militaire,
Our mouth-opening number.
It seemed faintly familiar
(We’d rehearsed it all that winter),
But we attacked in such a blur,
No army anywhere
On its stomach or all fours
Could have squeezed through our crossfire.

I played cornet, seventh chair,
Out of seven, my embouchure
A glorified Bronx cheer
Through that three-keyed keyhole stopper
And neighborhood window-slammer
Where mildew fought for air
At every exhausted corner,
My fingering still unsure
After scaling it for a year
Except on the spit-valve lever.

Each straight-faced mother and father
Retested his moral fiber
Against our traps and slurs
And the inadvertent whickers
Paradiddled by our snares,
And when the brass bulled forth
A blare fit to horn over
Jericho two bars sooner
Than Joshua’s harsh measures,
They still had the nerve to stare.

By the last lost chord, our director
Looked older and soberer.
No doubt, in his mind’s ear
Some band somewhere
In some music of some Sphere
Was striking a note as pure
As the wishes of Franz Schubert,
But meanwhile here we were:
A lesson in everything minor,
Decomposing our first composer.

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