Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 315

There has been no criticism written on "The Constellation Orion" and very little written on Kooser in general apart from reviews for book-length collections of poetry. Critic and poet Dana Gioia has written the most sustained piece of criticism on Kooser's career in his collection of essays, Can Poetry Matter?. ...

(The entire section contains 315 words.)

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There has been no criticism written on "The Constellation Orion" and very little written on Kooser in general apart from reviews for book-length collections of poetry. Critic and poet Dana Gioia has written the most sustained piece of criticism on Kooser's career in his collection of essays, Can Poetry Matter?. In "The Anonymity of the Regional Poet," Gioia argues that Kooser is a popular poet because he writes for a nonliterary audience in accessible language, and deals with subjects from everyday life, albeit everyday life in the Midwest. Claiming that Kooser has not received much critical attention because his poetry "poses none of the verbal problems critical methodologies have been so skillfully designed to unravel," Gioia offers a paradox: "the simpler poetry is, the more difficult it becomes for a critic to discuss intelligently." For Kooser, however, it has not been a matter of whether or not critics discuss his poetry intelligently or not, but of whether they discuss it at all. Gioia examines Kooser's limitations and virtues as a poet, concluding that "while one would not claim that Kooser is a major poet, one could well make the case that he will be an enduring one."

Sure Signs: New and Selected Poems, the volume in which "The Constellation Orion" appears, received The Society of Midland Authors Prize for the best book of poetry by a Midwestern writer published in 1980 and also carries words from reviewers. Karl Shapiro, himself a Nebraskan poet, compares the collection to other regional poets and poetry, claiming that it is "a lasting work, comparable to the best of the Spoon River or Frost in his richest vein." Theodore Weiss seconds that opinion, saying "[Kooser] has, with his wit and his earthi-ness, his imagination and his lucidity, staked out as his own region—western as it is—somewhere poetically between Frost and Williams." Russell Ed-son calls the book "a wonderful collection."

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Essays and Criticism