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MARSHMALLOW CLOUDS by Ted Kooser Kirkus Star


Two Poets at Play Among Figures of Speech

by Ted Kooser & Connie Wanek ; illustrated by Richard Jones

Pub Date: March 15th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-5362-0303-5
Publisher: Candlewick

Free-verse meditations, mostly on rural and country subjects, with atmospheric illustrations.

Mingling their unsigned entries, Kooser and Wanek use similar language and cadences to write of marshmallows on a blue plate (“They’re partly cloudy!”), a harpist on a stage playing “a great golden moth,” tadpoles as punctuation marks, a book as a sandwich with “a few words of mustard introducing / the chewy salami of history,” and like transformations of familiar, or at least recognizable, sights. The tone is generally solemn, though glints of humor shine through—“One summer day I was boiled and salted / like a peanut. I was the meat / in a heat sandwich, the dog in a hot”—and the sensibility is so attuned to outdoors and country experiences that the one real miss here is a wry remark about city people never getting to step in a cow pie. (No, in cities it’ll come from a dog.) In the accompanying paintings, Jones incorporates images from each poem into subdued landscapes or domestic settings…often to lovely effect, as in one scene of brown ponies amid birches on a snowy hillside and another of sinuous, nearly bare trees with intimately interwoven branches. A child on the cover has brown skin; the rest of the rare human figures either appear light-skinned or face away from the viewer.

Imagination stretchers, likely to appeal most to introspective readers fond of finding unexpected pairings and connections.

(dual afterwords) (Illustrated poetry. 10-13)