April 15, 2011

National Poetry Month: Flying at Night

Ted Kooser's poems speak often of people living quiet lives in quiet places. These seemingly uncomplicated characters and settings seem to glow amidst the beauty of his metaphors and the images his words evoke.

In Flying at Night, I love how he  juxtaposes the enormity of a galaxy with the farmer "drawing his sheds and barn back into the little system of his care" and the "shimmering novas" with "lonely lights like his."

Kooser (I can't help but think of him as "Ted" after looking at his photo), was poet laureate of the U.S. from 2004 to 2006. He's founded a project called American Life in Poetry, for which he writes a weekly column that features contemporary American poems. He offers the column free to newspapers and online publications, and there's no cost to reprint previous columns. "The sole mission of this project, says the ALP website, "is to promote poetry...[and] create a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture." You go, Ted!

 Flying at Night

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.

-Ted Kooser

Image of Ted Kooser by Sarah Greene, from American Life in Poetry.


  1. This is a breathtaking poem! Thanks for sharing it!

  2. I so agree, Joan. It's amazing how he can say things so beautifully in so few words.