Ted Kooser

Ted Kooser Bio

Ted Kooser is a US poet and university lecturer who has also spent time in the life insurance industry and was the editor of a newspaper for a time.  Many honours and awards have come his way, the most prestigious being his appointment in 2004 to the post of

He filled this role for two years and is one of a select band of poets from the Great Plains region of the United States to have been appointed national Poet Laureate.

He was born on the 25th April 1939 in Ames, Iowa.  His early schooling was at public schools in his home town and an interesting point about his time at high school was that he was distracted from writing for a time by his keen interest in a motoring group called the

His attention was diverted back to literature though by a female teacher who urged him to write essays and poetry and Kooser soon realised that the urge to become a well-known poet overrode anything else in his life.  From school he went on to take a degree course at ISU, graduating in 1962.  Six years later he got his Masters’ degree from the University of Nebraska.

Critics have described his poetic style as conversational and this is certainly a method that makes poetry more accessible to many people who might only scan a piece of verse before giving up on it because it is too hard to follow.  It could almost be described as prose like, as Kooser didn’t pay too much attention to rhyming or metre.  He liked to write about his lifetime experiences in his homeland area of the Great Plains.  A good example of this would be the short poem

which is a simple piece that describes vividly a much-loved, and much-used, piece of outdoor furniture that lies silent and abandoned as summer’s warmth gives way to the cool months at the end of the year.  Here is the poem:

Kooser has produced a dozen books of poetry and one, titled

won him the

Coincidentally this was awarded during the same week that he began his second year of office as Poet Laureate.  At least seven of his books were written while he was working for Lincoln Bankers Life Insurance and he disciplined himself to write for at least an hour and a half every morning until he retired from the insurance life.  He has always enjoyed encouraging others to write through mediums such as the newspaper project

and he edits the

Unlike many other poets who liked to travel the world in search of inspiration and new experiences, Kooser has remained for much of his life in the rural environment of the American Midwest.  During the period spanning the 1960s and 70s he was one of the leading lights in a movement called the Midwest Poetry Renaissance.  This was a group of like-minded poets who wrote about and drew on their experiences of rural America and they created their own printing presses to get their work published.  Other writers included the likes of Judith Minty, Victor Contoski and Gary Gildner, all like Kooser making their way in the literary world.  Kooser’s own first collection of poetry came out in 1969 with the title Official Entry Blank.

He has continued to write in his easy, almost simplistic style on subjects such as family life and the places that are familiar to him and, now in his late seventies, he lives in Nebraska with his wife Kathleen.