Nearly twenty years ago, Georgia Review called Ted Kooser “an authentic poet of the American people.” This year, that description truly came to pass as Kooser was named Poet Laureate of the United States, the first from the Plains States.
Kooser, who was born in Iowa and now lives in Nebraska, is a retired insurance executive who, for thirty-five years, rose at 4:30 in the morning to write before work. The result was ten books of poetry that have consistently and quietly examined the vivid details of everyday life in the Midwest. What begin as precise particulars, however, are transformed by poem’s-end into insightful metaphors that resonate beyond. “The setting may be rural America,” the Christian Science Monitor wrote, “but the scene is universal.”
Kooser’s most recent book, Delights and Shadows (2004), features the clear, taut poems he strives for—and has come to be lauded for. “Poetry,” he says, “can do some remarkable things for people if they have access to it.” The recipient of a NEA fellowship and a Pushcart Prize, Kooser is currently a visiting professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.