Cotton Candy: Poems Dipped Out of the Air

Univ. of Nebraska. Sept. 2022. 96p. ISBN 9781496231291. pap. $17.95. POETRY
Kooser is a contested figure in contemporary American poetry. Without question he is competent and laureled (U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004–06; Pulitzer Prize winner for 2005’s Delights & Shadows; and winner of the Pushcart Prize no fewer than four times), yet his proudly worn aesthetic is so folksy and accessible that he tends to dissatisfy or alienate many traditional readers of poetry while at the same time reassuring new readers of poetry’s merits. His latest volume will do very little to alter his reputation, and his prefatory note seems determined to evade or defy critical reaction, saying that “these poems were written in play and meant to be played with.” As such, these brief and proselike poems are not without their charm but scarcely rise above the level of a journal in lyrics, rarely lifting into the realm of deep image or complex idea. Kooser’s poems are like an afternoon with a sharp-eyed, kindhearted grandfather who is satisfied that “it feels righ / too be able to look at a world far away,/ yet to be part of it, both feet on the ground.”
VERDICT More of the sweet stuff Kooser’s dedicated readers have come to expect from him.
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