Ted Kooser admits: He'll never get around to reading everything

A poet laureate faces the same challenge as all the rest of us: There's more great stuff to read than there is time to read it in.

Ted Kooser's latest poetry collection, 'Splitting an Order,' was published this fall.

Former US poet laureate Ted Kooser has two new books out this season – "Splitting An Order," his latest poetry collection from Copper Canyon Press, and "The Wheeling Year," selections from a writing notebook he's kept for years. Clearly, Kooser is doing his part to increase the supply of good things to read.

But in "The Wheeling Year, Kooser considers a dilemma of old age – the obvious reality that as time grows more limited, one will never get around to reading everything.

"As, in the dented spaceship of my seventies (shaking a little and leaking water), I travel the endless reaches of my ignorance, all the books I haven't read, and never will, come rolling at me out of the dark like a hail of asteroids," Kooser tells readers. "And now and then an entire library, with a glowing trail of checkout slips, just misses hitting me by inches. On board I carry what I know, a few thin volumes, mostly how-to books, survival guides, and, for my ancient ship, a manual of parts with no address to use when ordering. Oh, yes, and a handful of things I wrote myself, stuffed into the cracks around my window, open into time"

A deeply cosmic view of the reader's eternal challenge – more great stuff to read than time to read it.

With any luck, though, Kooser's fans will find the time this autumn to read "Splitting An Order" and "The Wheeling Year."

Danny Heitman, a columnist for The Advocate newspaper in Louisiana, is the author of "A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House."

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