The following is a guest post and poem by Ted Kooser, the 13th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, who will serve as this year’s Valentine’s Day Poet Laureate on our blog.
I’ve always thought of Valentine’s Day as the Poets’ Holiday, because it’s our one special day celebrating the unembarrassed communication of feelings, which of course is what poetry is all about. And of course verses and Valentine’s Day have been joined in greeting cards for as long as most of us can remember.
I began writing Valentine’s Day poems in 1986. I’d have them printed on postcard-sized stock, put a small heart sticker in a corner, and mail them to friends. Several times I had them mailed from Valentine, NE, so they’d have a Valentine postmark. Over the course of the next twenty-one years—as my list of recipients ballooned from 50 to 2,500—the costs of my quirky hobby got out of hand and I had to stop. Thank goodness the University of Nebraska Press collected all the valentines, commissioned my friend Bob Hanna to do pen and ink illustrations, and created a book, Valentines.
One of the poems, “A Map of the World,” has been riding around in the New York subway system for the past few months, and I’ve had many people send me photos of it, handsomely presented on a plaque above people slumped in their seats, half-asleep, commuting to work, oblivious to the poem just over their heads. Poets are used to people being oblivious of what they do, but that’s just part of the package.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
FOR YOU, FRIEND,
this Valentine’s Day, I intend to stand
for as long as I can on a kitchen stool
and hold back the hands of the clock,
so that wherever you are, you may walk
even more lightly in your loveliness;
so that the weak, mid-February sun
(whose chill I will feel from the face
of the clock) cannot in any way
lessen the lights in your hair, and the wind
(whose subtle insistence I will feel
in the minute hand) cannot tighten
the corners of your smile. People
drearily walking the winter streets
will long remember this day:
how they glanced up to see you
there in a storefront window, glorious,
strolling along on the outside of time.
[Poem reproduced from Valentines by Ted Kooser by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Copyright 2008 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska.]