The Life and Poetry of Ted Kooser

The Life and Poetry of Ted Kooser

The Life and Poetry of Ted Kooser

The Life and Poetry of Ted Kooser


Like a flash of lightning it came to him- the unathletic high school student Ted Kooser saw a future as a famous poet that promised everything: glory, immortality, a bohemian lifestyle (no more doing dishes, no more cleaning his room), and, particularly important to the lonely teenager, girls! Unlike most kids with a sudden ambition, Kooser, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and thirteenth poet laureate of the United States, made good on his dream. But glory was a long time coming, and along the way Kooser lived the life that has made his poetry what it is, as deeply grounded in family, work, and the natural world as it is attuned to the nuances of language.
nbsp; Just as so much of Kooser's own writing weaves geography, history, and family stories into its measures, so does this first critical biography consider the poet's work and life together: his upbringing in Iowa, his studies in Nebraska with poet Karl Shapiro as mentor, his career in insurance, his family life, his bout with cancer, and, always, his poetry. Combining a fine appreciation of Kooser's work and life, this book finally provides a fuller and more complex picture of a writer who, perhaps more than any other, has brought the Great Plains and the Midwest, lived large and small, into the poetry of our day.


The peonies are up, the red sprouts
burning in circles like birthday candles,
for this is the month of my birth…
everything ready to burst with living.

—From “Mother”

Vera Deloras Moser Kooser and Theodore Briggs Kooser welcomed their first child into the world at Mary Greeley Hospital in Ames, Iowa, on Tuesday, April 25, 1939. All across town peonies were sending up bright red sprouts along fences and sidewalks, and the tall, well-established elms that would soon provide shelter from the Midwest summer sun were coming into leaf. a few days later the couple paid their hospital bill of $47.38 and carried Theodore John, named for his father and maternal grandfather, a few blocks south to their upstairs apartment across from Bandshell Park on Carroll Avenue.

Not long after the young family moved to the modest white frame house at 109 West Ninth Street where Teddy, or Little Ted, as he was called, grew up. the neighborhood, now part of the Historic Old Town, was already well known to Ted Sr. He had been born in the house to the immediate west, currently occupied by the Mallo . . .

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