What is "Selecting a Reader" by Ted Kooser about?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In “Selecting a Reader,” poet Ted Kooser imagining what his ideal reader would be like.  It is full of imagery describing this perfect reader, who is “beautiful” (line 1), and of course female, but she does not have much money and wears a dirty raincoat. 

The speaker does not limit himself to the physical though. His ideal reader would also be “walking carefully up on [his] poetry/at the loneliest moment of an afternoon” (lines 2-3).   The poem also uses irony, because the reader does not actually buy the book!  Instead, the reader just thumbs through his book and says “For that kind of money, I can get my raincoat cleaned” (lines 11-12).  Thus, at the end of the poem the perfect reader has not chosen to buy the book.  She gets her raincoat cleaned instead.

Interestingly enough, by the end of the poem the speaker has indeed made a difference in the woman’s life.  His poetry seems to have reached her somehow, even though she did not buy the book.  After all, she now has a clean rain coat!


Kooser, Ted. "Selecting a Reader." Poetry 180 -. Poetry 180. Web. 16 May 2012. <http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/053.html>.


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