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American Life in Poetry

Ted Kooser U.S. Poet Laureate

Stuart Kestenbaum is a Maine poet with a new book, “Only Now,” from Deerbrook Editions. In it are a number of thoughtful poems posed as prayers, and here’s an example:

Prayer for Joy

What was it we wanted

to say anyhow, like today

when there were all the letters

in my alphabet soup and suddenly

the ‘j’ rises to the surface.

The ‘j’, a letter that might be

great for Scrabble, but not really

used for much else, unless

we need to jump for joy,

and then all of a sudden

it’s there and ready to

help us soar and to open up

our hearts at the same time,

this simple line with a curved bottom,

an upside down cane that helps

us walk in a new way into this

forest of language, where all the letters

are beginning to speak,

finding each other in just

the right combination

to be understood.

Poem copyright 2014 by Stuart Kestenbaum, from “Only Now” (Deerbrook Editions, 2014) and is reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. American Life in Poetry is supported by The Poetry Foundation and the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
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