Named U.S. Poet Laureate in 2004, Ted Kooser is a Midwesterner through & through, born in Iowa and living in Nebraska, “the great middle.” He is a people’s poet who worked as an insurance executive and rewrote his poems if they were not “accessible” to his secretary (who had not otherwise read poetry since high school). He now teaches as Visiting Professor at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, and lives in a rural area of Nebraska.
Kooser as poet:
Kooser is a plainspoken, not overtly literary poet, recognized as a maker of pungently distilled, haiku-like images. He uses his poetry to make visible the extraordinary in ordinary things, to delineate the subtleties of everyday experience in small towns & the country, the lives of the people, flora and fauna around him -- witness the titles of the three poems selected to represent his work at Poetry Daily when he was appointed Laureate: “At the Cancer Clinic,” “A Jar of Buttons,” and “Grasshoppers.”
Kooser as laureate:
At the beginning of his term as Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser spoke about his larger aims: to “write towards clarity and away from difficulty,” to bring poetry out from the elite and use its special language to illuminate & give meaning to the common life of the broad populace. The project he chose to accomplish these aims is American Life in Poetry, a free newspaper column offering weekly poems chosen & introduced by Kooser to the general reading public. American Life in Poetry has continued to serve up weekly poems even after Kooser completed his two terms as Laureate.
Books by Ted Kooser:
- Delights and Shadows (poems, Copper Canyon Press, 2004)
- The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice For Beginning Poets (University of Nebraska Press, 2005)
- Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry (with Jim Harrison, Copper Canyon Press, 2003)
- Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (prose memoir, University of Nebraska Press, 2004)
- Winter Morning Walks: 100 Postcards to Jim Harrison (poems, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 2001)
- Weather Central (poems, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994)
- Flying at Night: Poems 1965-1985 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005)