For Valentine’s Day 1986, Ted Kooser wrote “Pocket Poem” and sent the tender, thoughtful composition to fifty women friends, starting an annual tradition that would persist for the next twenty-one years. Printed on postcards, the poems were mailed to a list of recipients that eventually grew to more than 2,500 women all over the United States. Valentines collects Kooser’s twenty-two years of Valentine’s Day poems, complemented with illustrations by Robert Hanna.
Kooser’s valentine poems encompass all the facets of the holiday: the traditional hearts and candy, the brilliance and purity of love, the quiet beauty of friendship, and the bittersweetness of longing. Some of the poems use the word valentine, others do not, but there is never any doubt as to the purpose of Kooser’s creations. Read an excerpt here.
“Over 22 years, Kooser has discovered a startling variety of ways to invert and enliven the vocabulary of romance, finding tender implications in even the mustiest Valentine’s symbols. . . . When it comes to his beloved(s), Kooser has generous eyes, offering always to keep her young. . . . Kooser’s poems do build a frisson, making the most of small moments of intimacy.”—Emily Nussbaum, New York Times Book Review
“The writing in this book is classic Kooser: simple images, down-to-earth language, insight, and uncommonly good sense, all of which combine to produce memorable, resonant endings. . . . The artwork, like the verse, is inviting, warm, and unpretentious.”—Elizabeth Lund, Christian Science Monitor
“Because Kooser is a master of such unpretentious scene-painting, these are poems of rich, Wordsworthian common feeling. . . . They’ve nearly all appeared in Kooser’s previous collections, but especially as accompanied by Robert Hanna’s drawings . . . they’ve never seemed more like godsends—or valentines!”—Booklist
“Each poem is a unique snapshot of love. The poet says it best himself: ‘all my life, I have wanted nothing so much as the love of women.’”—Publishers Weekly
“Forget about any Valentine you’ve seen in a grocery store aisle. These poems—touching, funny, ironic, and with the startling and always-fresh use of metaphor for which Kooser is known—are something else entirely.”— Nebraska Life