Top of page

A Valentine from Ted Kooser

Share this post:

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.

Ted Kooser, 13th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.

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!


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.]

Comments (6)


  2. The last sentence is gorgeous, especially. Thank you, Ted. Thank you, Anne. Happy Valentine’s!

  3. lovely to be reminded of Ted Kooser’s delightful book Valentines– all those
    wonderful post cards. I’m not a poet, but I spent 25 years as an Art teacher and I loved the concentrated work during valentine week when the children each made a complex Valentine collage on a brown paper lunch bag which would then hold their own valentines that were exchanged at school.the rule was you had to bring a valentine for everyone in your class- while the brought valentines were all those little commercial valentines… the decorated bags were works of art- “”HOLD the FOLD” was the battle cry as kindergarteners learned to cur out a heart without drawing it first. they cut and pasted and discovered how to use the “windows” after cutting our hearts- those valentine bags were ultimately frameable collages, multi layered and comples and kept long after the printed contents were gone.

  4. I’ve grown accustomed to Mr. Kooser partnering odd concepts in his work, often to my amazement and delight. Though I seldom know where I’m being led, I am often surprised and happy to arrive. This poem is another fine example — a little gift passing by; the bright tail of it’s bow fluttering at the end.

  5. Thank you for sharing this great site.

  6. Thank you

Comments are closed.