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The Wheeling Year

A Poet's Field Book

Ted Kooser

Publication Year: 2014

Ted Kooser sees a writer’s workbooks as the stepping-stones on which a poet makes his way across the stream of experience toward a poem. Because those wobbly stones are only inches above the quotidian rush, what’s jotted there has an immediacy that is intimate and close to life.

Kooser, winner of the Pultizer Prize and a former U.S. poet laureate, has filled scores of workbooks. The Wheeling Year offers a sequence of contemplative prose observations about nature, place, and time arranged according to the calendar year.

Written by one of America’s most beloved poets, this book is published in the year in which Kooser turns seventy-five, with sixty years of workbooks stretching behind him.


Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Praise, Title Page, Copyright, Epigraph

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pp. vii-x

I’ve always been covetous of my friend Keith Jacobshagen’s journals. Keith is a fine landscape painter, and for more than thirty years he’s been filling hardbound orange engineer’s field books with drawings, watercolor sketches, and observations. I know from years of experience that keeping a journal is like taking good care...

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pp. 1-6

It’s New Year’s Day, and the future backs up, beeping with cheer, and closes its iron maw on the past. And then, with its massive hydraulics, it crushes the last year, mushing all the days together. Then it lumbers away, groaning and leaking, the scraps of the good times flapping farewell from the...

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pp. 7-12

Cold stove of 4:00 a.m., black iron, the lids in place on everyone but me, and down the chimney, through the damper’s pinch, the distant hoo-hoo-hooing of an owl. And soon, among the sticks of kindling in the box of words, the mouselike scritching of my pen.

At times it seems I am in a slow revolving door, like those in...

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pp. 13-18

Early in March, in the shadow of the abandoned Assembly of God, there’s a melting snowdrift shaped like a hand whose five thin fingers reach to soothe the grass on the neighboring lawn. Each day this white hand shrinks back farther into the empty sleeve of the church.

After the kitchen had been cleaned, swept, mopped, and...

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pp. 19-24

All this talking, all these raindrops interrupting each other. But but but, they say, so earnest, so eager to please. But not one offers a good explanation, not one can answer the one big question, though I patiently listen, sitting in thin gray morning light, another day before me.

Month of my birth. What record do we poets leave? Not...

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pp. 25-32

When at last the light from the next galaxy arrives, or what is left of it arrives, it is only a speck, the pinpoint center of what was once an enormous snowball of light, come rolling down the black tarpaper roof of the universe, losing itself all the way, nine hundred thousand years of loss, only enough left of it to light one...

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pp. 33-40

Bumper to bumper, the days stream past the day-old baked goods store though sometimes a Sunday morning pulls in, driven by some old man who stops in the present for a moment to buy a little bag of yesterdays. But mostly the days, by the dozen, dry out and get thrown to the birds, sparrows and starlings to whom...

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pp. 41-48

Last night, in the distance, the pops and toothy whistles of rockets, booms of bombs, and strings of firecrackers rattling like rocks in a can. This morning, taking a walk at the lake, the revelers gone, the parking lot littered with flattened, dewy silence, red and gray, the hollow tubes, the burned-out cones, and all the duds, their...

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pp. 49-56

Black cows in deep shade under a mulberry tree, that part of its shadow that’s swishing its tails. They have already eaten the cool, edible parts of the shade, the blue grass, the few violet leaves they could reach, and now they are waiting, their rumps bumped up together, tails slapping each other, gazing out through the flies at...

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pp. 57-64

One of our old neglected apple trees is so burdened with fruit this year that a limb has cracked, turned brown, and drapes limp-wristed, bejewelled with apples that ripen, day after day, on those lifeless fingers. This morning I noticed that hornets have come to set each garnet in a golden...

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pp. 65-70

Each of these leaves had just one chance to feather the air with an arabesque of yellow or red, backlit and buoyant, just one chance to be held on the palm of the year, then briskly brushed away like an instant. Maybe two hundred leaves lie piled together under this empty maple, their jumpsuits weighing them down with...

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pp. 71-76

November 1st, and a mile away, a hunter’s shotgun raps once on the wet lid of the morning, and a yellow leaf comes loose and falls.

6:30 a.m., dark, still, and cold, and members of the marching band in down-filled jackets, stocking caps, and mittens, carrying instruments in cases black as dominos, or bellying great moony...

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pp. 77-82

You’ve seen those telephone poles upon which hundreds of notices have been posted and then torn away: the lost, the found, the evenings’ events, the faces of those who disappeared and then whose pictures vanished, too, leaving staples and scraps of paper. All of us think our lives unique, those pages that have been stapled up...


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p. 83-83

E-ISBN-13: 9780803256736
E-ISBN-10: 0803256736
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803249707

Page Count: 88
Publication Year: 2014

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