Ted Kooser

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Ted Kooser (born 25 April 1939) is an American poet. He served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 to 2006.[1]


Personal life[edit]

Ted Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa, on April 25, 1939. Kooser earned his BS at Iowa State University in 1962 and MA at the University of Nebraska in 1968. Kooser is the author of twelve collections of poetry. He is former vice-president of Lincoln Benefit Life, an insurance company, and lives on land near the village of Garland, Nebraska.[2] Kooser owned a book publishing company, Windflower. Currently, Kooser teaches as a Presidential Professor in the English department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Kooser has lived most of his life in the Midwest, preferring a more rural lifestyle, as he's chosen to live on an acreage in Nebraska. Kooser is married to Kathleen Rutledge, former editor of the Lincoln Journal Star. Ted and Kathleen have one son, Jeff. Jeff's two kids, Ted's grandchildren, are named Margaret and Penelope .[3][4][5]


Kooser attended Ames Public Schools and worked various jobs including wrapping gifts at Younkers and making posters for Ames Carnegie Library. When Kooser went to Ames High School, his interest diverted from the library and went to cars. He joined the Nightcrawlers Car Club and became secretary of the group in 1956. His motivation for writing in high school can be in part credited to one of his teachers, Mary McNally, who encouraged him to continue writing essays and poems that reflected his life. Kooser decided as a teenager that he was going to be a famous poet for three reasons: glory, immortally and to leave the bohemian lifestyle behind.

He graduated from Ames High School with a class of 175 students and enrolled at Iowa State University, the alma mater of his uncles. Kooser began writing short nonfiction stories for the Iowa State student literary magazine. He also joined the Iowa State Writer’s Round Table, which he credits for fine-tuning his writing skills; Iowa Senator Tom Harkin was also apart of the group. In 1961, Kooser moved to Marshalltown, Iowa, to student teach English classes. The following year he graduated with a BS in English education from Iowa State University and moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to live with his parents.[4] He was offered a graduate readership opportunity at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and in 1963, he and his wife moved to Lincoln, Nebraska. After winning the Vreeland Award for poetry in 1964, he soon after lost his graduate readership from the University for his poor GPA. In order to pay for college, he decided to become a correspondent for Bankers Life, an Insurance company in Lincoln; he quickly flourished at the insurance company and was promoted a year later. In 1967, he received his MA from Nebraska.[6]


On August 12, 2004, he was named Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry by the Librarian of Congress to serve a term from October 2004 through May 2005. In April 2005, Ted Kooser was appointed to serve a second term as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. During that same week, Kooser received the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his book "Delights and Shadows"[7] (Copper Canyon Press, 2004).

Kooser lives in Garland, Nebraska, and much of his work focuses on the Great Plains. Like Wallace Stevens, Kooser spent much of his working years as an executive in the insurance industry, although Kooser sardonically noted in an interview with the Washington Post that Stevens had far more time to write at work than he ever did.

He hosts the newspaper project "American Life in Poetry."[8]

Awards & Honors

Two writing fellowships for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA): 1976 & 1984. Pushcart Prize: 1984, 2005, 2009 & 2012. Named United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry: 2004 & 2005. Delights & Shadows named as “Best Book of the Year”: 2004. Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (Delights & Shadows): 2005. The Best American Essays: 2005. University of Nebraska Presidential Professorship: 2005, 2006, 2007. Selected on the three-person jury for Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: 2006 & 2011. Dedication of Ted Kooser Elementary School: 2009. New York Times Best Illustrated Book, for House Held Up By Trees: 2012. Mark Twain Award from The Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature: 2013. Independent Publisher’s Gold Medal Award for The Wheeling Year: 2015.[9]

Midwest Poetry Renaissance[edit]

Ted Kooser was part of the Midwest Poetry Renaissance in the 1960s and 70s. The Midwest Poetry Renaissance drew on elements of Rural America through a five state swath of the Great Plains region. Poets of the midwest were respected among artists throughout the country due to being informed of larger societal forces, such as the distrust of a media-driven culture of that time.

More small presses opened up in that time, and Midwestern poets began publishing more work. Warren Woessner regards the catalyst of the MPR to be the anthology Heartland in 1967. The movement began to develop after that point, along with the works of Ted and other poets such as Victor Contoski, Mak Vinz, David Steinglass, Gary Gildner, James Hazard, Greg Kuzma, Judith Minty, and Kathy Weigner (as well as many others) who exemplified the rural subject matter and conversational tone. Most of the poets were in their twenties or early thirties and published their first books.

Ted was in his late twenties and thirties during the decade the Midwest Poetry Renaissance occurred. He published his first book through the University of Nebraska Press at age 30, titled “Official Entry Blank.” Ted’s first full-length book was already out of print by the early 70’s, at which time he became more of a small press poet like many other poets in the Midwest at that time. Ted continued to receive publication of individual poems within anthologies, and published several more books on small presses. He also began to edit The New Salt Creek Reader, which had six anthologies by 1974.

According to a Warren Woessner, a poet during the Midwest Poetry Renaissance, the movement ended in 1975 with the publication of Heartland II.[10]



  • Kooser, Ted (1969). Official entry blank. 
  • Grass County. (1971).
  • Twenty Poems. (1973).
  • A Local Habitation and a Name. (1974).
  • Not Coming to Be Barked At. (1976).
  • Sure Signs: New and Selected Poems. (1980).
  • One World at a Time. (1985).
  • The Blizzard Voices (1986).
  • Weather Central. (1994).
  • A Book of Things. (1995).
  • Riding with Colonel Carter. (1999).
  • Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison. (2001).
  • Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry. (with Jim Harrison) (Copper Canyon Press, 2003).
  • Delights and Shadows. (Copper Canyon Press, 2004)
  • Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (2004)
  • Flying At Night : Poems 1965-1985 (2005)
  • Lights on a Ground of Darkness: an evocation of place and time. (2005).
  • The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice For Beginning Poets (2005).
  • Valentines (2008)
  • Bag in the Wind (2010)
  • The House Held Up by Trees (2012)
  • Splitting an Order (2014)
  • The Bell in the Bridge (2016)

List of poems[edit]

Title Year First published Reprinted/collected
Carrie 1978 Kooser, Ted (Fall 1978). "Carrie". Prairie Schooner. 52 (4). p. 256. Kooser, Ted (1980). "Carrie". Sure Signs. University of Pittsburgh Press.
A Birthday Card 1983 Kooser, Ted (November 1983). "A Birthday Card". Poetry. p. 70.
The Mouse 1983 Kooser, Ted (November 1983). "The Mouse". Poetry. p. 72.
Lobocraspis Griseifusa 1995 Kooser, Ted (May 1995). "Lobocraspis Griseifusa". Poetry. p. 86.
New Moon 1995 Kooser, Ted (July 1995). "New Moon". Poetry. p. 86.
The Early Bird 2003 Kooser, Ted (May 2003). "The Early Bird". Poetry Magazine. p. 75.
At the Cancer Clinic 2004 Kooser, Ted (May 2004). "At the Cancer Clinic". Delights and Shadows. Copper Canyon Press.[7] Kooser, Ted (2012). "At the Cancer Clinic". The Writer's Almanac. 2012.
Father 2004 Kooser, Ted (May 2004). "Father". Delights and Shadows. Copper Canyon Press.[7] Kooser, Ted (2004). "Father". The Writer's Almanac. 2012.
Skater 2004 Kooser, Ted (May 2004). "Skater". Delights and Shadows. Copper Canyon Press.[7] Kooser, Ted (2004). "Skater". Shenandoah. 65 (1).
Tattoo 2004 Kooser, Ted (June 2003). "Tattoo". Poetry. p. 150. Kooser, Ted (May 2004). "Tattoo". Delights and Shadows. Copper Canyon Press.
Flying at Night 2005 Kooser, Ted (January 2005). "Flying at Night". Flying at Night.[3]
Lantern 2011 Kooser, Ted (Fall 2011). "Lantern". The Kenyon Review. 33 (4). Retrieved 2015-04-01.  Kooser, Ted (2013). "Lantern". In Henderson, Bill. The Pushcart Prize XXXVII : best of the small presses 2013. Pushcart Press. p. 339. 


  1. ^ "Poet Laureate Timeline: 2001-present". Library of congress. 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  2. ^ Various (14 April 2011). Good Poems, American Places. Penguin Group US. p. 237. ISBN 978-1-101-47619-2. 
  3. ^ a b Department, UNL | English. "Ted Kooser | Home". www.tedkooser.net. Retrieved 2016-11-21. 
  4. ^ a b Department, UNL | English. "Ted Kooser | About". www.tedkooser.net. Retrieved 2016-11-22. 
  5. ^ Kooser, Ted (2007-03-01). The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets. U of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0803259786. 
  6. ^ Stillwell, Mary (2013). The Life and Poetry Of Ted Kooser. Lincoln: Bison Books. pp. 1–60. 
  7. ^ a b c d https://www.coppercanyonpress.org/pages/browse/book.asp?bg={5DB744E9-E4AB-4314-A21F-C4C84A317273}
  8. ^ American Life in Poetry
  9. ^ Network, University of Nebraska-Lincoln | Web Developer. "Ted Kooser | Department of English | University of Nebraska–Lincoln". www.unl.edu. Retrieved 2016-11-21. 
  10. ^ Woessner, Warren (2005). "Let Us Now Praise Rusty Tractors-- Ted Kooser and the Midwest Poetry Renaissance". Midwest Quarterly. 6: 5 – via EBSCO. 

External links[edit]