Cover image for Good poems
Good poems
Keillor, Garrison.
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 2002.
Physical Description:
xxvi, 476 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
Central Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Clarence Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Clearfield Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Collins Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Crane Branch Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Eggertsville-Snyder Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Elma Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Grand Island Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Hamburg Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Kenmore Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Lancaster Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Orchard Park Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Williamsville Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Julia Boyer Reinstein Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Audubon Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Kenilworth Library PS586 .G58 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Every day people tune in to The Writer's Almanac on public radio and hear Garrison Keillor read them a poem. And here, for the first time, is an anthology of poems from the show, chosen by the narrator for their wit, their frankness, their passion, their "utter clarity in the face of everything else a person has to deal with at 7 a.m."

The title Good Poems comes from common literary parlance. For writers, it's enough to refer to somebody having written a good poem. Somebody else can worry about greatness. Mary Oliver's " Wild Geese " is a good poem, and so is James Wright's "A Blessing ." Regular people love those poems. People read them aloud at weddings, people send them by e-mail.

Good Poems includes poems about lovers, children, failure, everyday life, death, and transcendance. It features the work of classic poets, such as Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Robert Frost, as well as the work of contemporary greats such as Howard Nemerov, Charles Bukowski, Donald Hall, Billy Collins, Robert Bly, and Sharon Olds. It's a book of poems for anybody who loves poetry whether they know it or not.

Author Notes

Humorist Garrison Keillor was born Gary Edward Keillor in Anoka, Minnesota on August 7, 1942. He began using the pen name Garrison at the age of thirteen. He received a B.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1966 and paid for his tuition by working at the campus radio station.

In 1974, he wrote an essay for the New Yorker about the Grand Ole Opry, which led to his live radio program, A Prairie Home Companion. Stories from Prairie Home were collected and published, but his debut as a novelist was in 1985 with Lake Wobegon Days. His other novels include WLT: A Radio Romance, The Book of Guys, Wobegon Boy, Me by Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente, and Good Poems, American Places.

He has also written the children's books Cat, You Better Come Home, The Old Man Who Loved Cheese, and The Sandy Bottom Orchestra. He won a Grammy Award for his recording of Lake Wobegon Days and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1994. Keillor received a National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1999. In September 2007, Keillor was awarded the John Steinbeck Award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

No false advertising here; just, as compiler Keillor says, good poems, written accessibly in common language by English-language writers, including a preponderance of twentieth-century hands but also Shakespeare and the bard who chanted the good old ballad "Sir Patrick Spens." Keillor originally chose them to read on his five-minute radio spot, The Writer's Almanac, and selected the poems for being memorable as well as recitable. It is astonishing how sound his judgment is. Poem after poem is as good as, and sometimes even better than, its predecessor. Keillor presents them in 19 topical sections, from "O Lord," made up of prayers sincere and satirical (one of the latter is Thomas Lux's book-opener, "Poem in Thanks," which concludes "Lord, thank you / for the goddamn birds singing"), to "The Resurrection," whose reverent contents are sometimes less Christian than the section title suggests (see "Here" by Grace Paley). That Keillor doesn't shy away from religious feeling is one virtue of the anthology, and his inclusion of vulgarity and earthiness is no vice, though occasionally it seems amazing that he spoke a particular poem in the staid medium of radio. Perhaps the one quality that obtains throughout is homeliness, not in the sense of ugliness but in that of domesticity; even the journeys pondered in the section called "Trips" are neither far away nor exotic. These are poems to live in comfort with all one's life. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Poetry is a regular feature on Garrison Keillor's NPR radio show A Prairie Home Companion, but for the last five years, it has formed the core of The Writer's Almanac, a daily, five-minute, 7 a.m. show on which Keillor reads a poem. Good Poems selects 350 pieces of verse from among the thousands that have been read on the Almanac for "Stickiness, memorability.... You hear it and a day later some of it is still there in the brainpan." Divided by subject-beginning with "O Lord," moving through "Day's Work," "Sons and Daughters" and through to "The End" and "The Resurrection"-the book includes work by writers past (Burns, Dickinson, Bishop, Williams, Shakespeare) and present: Robert Hass, Lisel Mueller, Tom Disch, among many others. Keillor will do a four-city tour in support of the book, and of the paperback release of his Lake Wobegon Summer 1956. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The poems here grew out of Garrison Keillor's daily five-minute radio show, The Writer's Almanac. In his introduction, Keillor compares reading a poem on the radio to reading in a high school cafeteria, with radio itself as a backdrop to the listener's life. But, he says, there are some poems that make you stop and turn up the volume, and those are what he's collected here. It's a very eclectic selection, intertwining Shakespeare, Robert Burns, and Emily Dickinson with contemporary poets, many of whom might be unfamiliar even to avid poetry listeners. The poems are arranged by theme, with perfect segues from one to the next, no subject (including excrement) taboo. Contemporary poets who read their own works and those of others include Allen Ginsberg, Robert Bly, Donald Hall, and Sharon Olds. There's a small booklet included, listing title, writer, and reader; there's also an extremely useful list of acknowledgements, so listeners can seek out the books from which these poems were extracted. Make no mistake-Keillor's name, his reading of several poems, and his endorsement is a step up for poetry. With poet Dana Goia heading the National Endowment for the Arts and poet Edward Hirsch heading the Guggenheim Foundation, poetry is suddenly attracting attention, and this program should attract listeners anxious to understand more about the art form. It will not disappoint.-Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-Keillor, host of the PBS radio show A Prairie Home Companion, has put together a collection of close to 300 poems he has read during yet another PBS broadcast, The Writer's Almanac. In an amusing introduction, he shares his thoughts on what makes a good poem. It's no big surprise that he purports to dislike literary works that, to him, smack of pretentiousness. A few selections openly poke fun at certain kinds of literature ("A Bookmark") or humorously defend humble things ("The Iceberg Theory"). Poems are arranged by 19 general themes, such as "Snow," "Failure," and "A Good Life." Authors range from well-known oldies like Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost to unknowns like C.K. Williams, who "played college basketball and lived for many years in Philadelphia." A delightful section at the end of the book offers biographical sketches of the featured authors. Keillor's choices lean heavily toward works that tell a good story or paint a tangible picture. Alongside poems with bucolic scenery are plenty of selections about everyday emotions and relationships. An outstanding feature of this collection is that the selections are all so accessible-even folks who say they don't like poetry can find something here to enjoy.-Sheila Shoup, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Poem in Thanks Thomas Lux Lord Whoever, thank you for this air I'm about to in- and exhale, this hutch in the woods, the wood for fire, the light-both lamp and the natural stuff of leaf-back, fern, and wing. For the piano, the shovel for ashes, the moth-gnawed blankets, the stone-cold water stone-cold: thank you. Thank you, Lord, coming for to carry me here-where I'll gnash it out, Lord, where I'll calm and work, Lord, thank you for the goddamn birds singing! How Many Nights Galway Kinnell How many nights have I lain in terror, O Creator Spirit, Maker of night and day, only to walk out the next morning over the frozen world hearing under the creaking of snow faint, peaceful breaths... snake, bear, earthworm, ant... and above me a wild crow crying 'yaw yaw yaw' from a branch nothing cried from ever in my life. Welcome Morning Anne Sexton There is joy in all: in the hair I brush each morning, in the Cannon towel, newly washed, that I rub my body with each morning, in the chapel of eggs I cook each morning, in the outcry from the kettle that heats my coffee each morning, in the spoon and the chair that cry "hello there, Anne" each morning, in the godhead of the table that I set my silver, plate, cup upon each morning. All this is God, right here in my pea-green house each morning and I mean, though often forget, to give thanks, to faint down by the kitchen table in a prayer of rejoicing as the holy birds at the kitchen window peck into their marriage of seeds. So while I think of it, let me paint a thank-you on my palm for this God, this laughter of the morning, lest it go unspoken. The Joy that isn't shared, I've heard, dies young. Psalm 23 from The Bay Psalm Book The Lord to me a shepherd is, want therefore shall not I: He in the folds of tender grass, doth cause me down to lie: To waters calm me gently leads restore my soul doth he: He doth in paths of righteousness for his name's sake lead me. Yea, though in valley of death's shade I walk, none ill I'll fear: Because thou art with me, thy rod, and staff my comfort are. For me a table thou hast spread, in presence of my foes: Thou dost anoint my head with oil; my cup it overflows. Goodness and mercy surely shall all my days follow me: And in the Lord's house I shall dwell so long as days shall be. At Least Raymond Carver I want to get up early one more morning, before sunrise. Before the birds, even. I want to throw cold water on my face and be at my work table when the sky lightens and smoke begins to rise from the chimneys of the other houses. I want to see the waves break on this rocky beach, not just hear them break as I did all night in my sleep. I want to see again the ships that pass through the Strait from every seafaring country in the world- old, dirty freighters just barely moving along, and the swift new cargo vessels painted every color under the sun that cut the water as they pass. I want to keep an eye out for them. And for the little boat that plies the water between the ships and the pilot station near the lighthouse. I want to see them take a man off the ship and put another up on board. I want to spend the day watching this happen and reach my own conclusions. I hate to seem greedy-I have so much to be thankful for already. But I want to get up early one more morning, at least. And go to my place with some coffee and wait. Just wait, to see what's going to happen. Address to the Lord John Berryman 1 Master of beauty, craftsman of the snowflake, inimitable contriver, endower of Earth so gorgeous & different from the boring Moon, thank you for such as it is my gift. I have made up a morning prayer to you containing with precision everything that most matters. 'According to Thy will' the thing begins. It took me off & on two days. It does not aim at eloquence. You have come to my rescue again & again in my impassable, sometimes despairing years. You have allowed my brilliant friends to destroy themselves and I am still here, severely damaged, but functioning. Unknowable, as I am unknown to my guinea pigs: How can I 'love' you? I only as far as gratitude & awe confidently & absolutely go. I have no idea whether we live again. It doesn't seem likely from either the scientific or the philosophical point of view but certainly all things are possible to you, and I believe as fixedly in the Resurrection-appearances to Peter and to Paul as I believe I sit in this blue chair. Only that may have been a special case to establish their initiatory faith. Whatever your end may be, accept my amazement. May I stand until death forever at attention for any your least instruction or enlightenment. I even feel sure you will assist me again, Master of insight & beauty. Philip Appleman O Karma, Dharma, pudding and pie, gimme a break before I die: grant me wisdom, will, & wit, purity, probity, pluck, & grit. Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, gimme great abs & a steel-trap mind, and forgive, Ye Gods, some humble advice- these little blessings would suffice to beget an earthly paradise: make the bad people good- and the good people nice; and before our world goes over the brink, teach the believers how to think. Reprinted from Good Poems  by Garrison Keillor, Copyright (c)2002, Viking, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission   Excerpted from Good Poems by Garrison Keillor All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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