Keillor’s Poetry Club Chap.1

Greetings Everyone!

I don’t know about you, but I’m having a hard time focusing my thoughts during the pandemic/riots 2020 which is why I chose Keillor’s book: Good Poems: for Hard Times. I want to wail all day about all the injustices (and I do) but I also know that it’s important to secure a mooring in the chaos.

And if you want to comment as “Anonymous” that’s fine. Just put a first name in your comment so we can respond to a person when we reply. 

Please comment on others’ posts, which is how a conversation can start.

Maybe at the end of this journey (or somewhere along the way, we could do Skype or Zoom?) Feel free to email me with any ideas, suggestions or questions?

Here is a general poetry handout for my University classes if anyone is interested in a refresher about the amazing, rich world of poetry.


Best regards,


8 thoughts on “Keillor’s Poetry Club Chap.1

  1. Sometimes I think of poems and by association, songs, as lightening looking for a place to ground to electrify, burn, charge-up with a fire or in the case of words (think lightening), ideas and sometimes, if you’re lucky, an epiphany. This is why words with music apply a double shock to our brains if the the right frequency is triggered. This is how our world was created: with vibration.

    So this week I vibrated with two poems in the first chapter: The Monks of St. John’s File In For Prayer. The descriptive line “five-thumbed organist” touched a nerve. And “the artist suffering the visually illiterate” cracked me up. As someone who grew up unfamiliar with the Catholic Church ways or sympathetic to their faith, I found this description sweet and endearing. These flawed beings living between the walls of St John’s with the same purpose of offering praise to the “High God of Gods”. Precious.

    But the poem that I read over and over again was Or Death and December. It spoke to me during this pandemic of isolation. The cold and ice is how my heart feels some moments, frozen in an insular “hangover” even though the temperature outside is steamy hot.

    I lived in NY for many years and the wind can be tortuous. Garrett’s description with words that sound like wind (onomatopoeia) ring true: “twitch, scuttle, rattle, rasp”. Many days I braced myself “against the blatant roaring of the wrongway wind”. So clever this “wrongway wind”. I laughed out loud when I read it. When is the wind ever “wrongway”? Answer: When it’s blasting in my face! “Wrongway” is such a human reaction to the rules of Nature that humans fight against and ignore. The wind blows whichever way it needs to go, oblivious to our descriptions or needs to keep structures standing or our face not frozen.

    The payoff for Garrett’s poem is the sweet image (even though it’s about urine) at the end. In spite of all his morning misery and his dog’s demand to go outside in the cold, he finds a “joy pure and simple”. He introduced a puppy. Who doesn’t love a puppy? I want a puppy!!!

    One can only hope to find these moments in each day and I think that’s why this poem touched a nerve. During these trying times, we must look for that joy even if it’s encapsulated in a moment of elimination.

    George Barrett (June 11, 1929 – May 25, 2008) was an American poet and novelist. He was the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2002 to 2004.

  2. I resonated with the first one. Kinnel’s description of starting the day brought to mind winter days in my wood shop(minus the chain smoking). Starting up the kerosene heater to take off the chill while the wood stove warms up. The transition from the slightly acrid kerosine smell to a faint wood smoke, which ultimately gets take over by the fresh smell of wood shavings and saw dust. It is slow peaceful start to the day. Oh and the heating of the dragon shaped cast iron humidifier my kids gave me to keep the air from drying out that sits on top of the stove and steams out of its nose all day. And that is the beauty of it. Slow peace. The chance to breath at a pace that does not feel like it is consuming you rather than refreshing. Probably the reason I like using hand tools so much more than power tools. They are quiet. They make great sounds. You can feel the tool, the life in the wood. The reshaping it’s purpose. It is a comfort and a blessing. Okay, might have gotten a little far a field from a guy just trying to get his stove started with green wood….but that is where my head went.

      1. Morning Curtis. As I was reading, I wondered how you would maintain a “peaceful start” to the day with a power saw but you cleared that up by using hand tools. Bravo! And I like the way you used the words “consuming” and “refreshing” to describe how the dragon humidifier fits into your peaceful morning. Dragons are usually associated with consuming fire so to align the image with “refreshing is quite clever. Although, Fire is also considered the ultimate purifier, destroyer…E.g. the building was consumed by fire. You could do an entire poem about your dragon, morning, steam, wood, tools, etc..

        Thank-you for the insightful images and your thoughtful read. Connie

  3. The Poem for Emily struck me as late fifties waiting patiently on grand children…I cam see myself in those lines ( someday).
    For a 5 year old was wonderfully reminiscent of many conversations and animal adventures with kids, living in the woods. For instance, the day 50 baby snapping turtles hatch in our garden and immediately headed for the nearest water (the pool). The kids retrieved them all and released them into the marsh. But I was lost with the who drowned your kittens line. Seemed out of place. The trapped mice and shot wild birds did not create the same disconnect. Perhaps as a waterfowl hunter who has alos nursed many injured birds back to health and released them… but that one line in found jarring out of place.

    1. 50 baby snapping turtles?! Wow! It’s interesting that random and wild animal events punctuate memories. Here’s to being a kid or kid-like in the woods. That drowning kittens line bothered me too. Who is doing that… hope it’s a metaphor. But who knows. That parent has guilt but is still trying to make a nice world for their kid.
      I loved the last line of “Emily” …
      “which is I stood and loved you while you slept”
      Not “watched” but “loved”
      Love as an action

    2. Good for you for saving birds! And baby turtles? LOVE.

      The drowned kittens bothered me–stuck in my craw. I hated her in that flash of a moment. But I thought of it later. And you are right. It’s disconnect. Maybe a metaphor for anything you’ve done in your life and felt ashamed about? Although I love cats, there are too many feral cats on Maui (thousands) endangering birds. I had murderous thoughts on how to “humanely” dispatch them. Or maybe this is an example of how confession helps a person feel better?

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