The Life and Poetry of Ted Kooser

By Mary K. Stillwell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
Running on Empty

One of the pleasures of painting is that it
doesn’t have words to go along with it.

—Interview with Ted Kooser, in Shelly
Clark and Marjorie Saiser, Road Trip

Despite the publication of his first collection, Kooser was frequently discouraged as the new decade began. The poet missed family life and time with Jeff on a daily basis. Every other weekend, he drove over to Marshalltown, picked up his son, and continued on to his parents’ home, where they stayed. The early 1970s would see the deaths of two beloved family members. On August 2, 1971, the poet’s uncle Tubby, Herold Kooser, died suddenly of a heart attack. A year later, Kooser stood at the bedside of his grandfather as “helpless as flowers.” John R. Moser died at ninety-eight on November 29, 1972, at the Good Neighbor Home in Manchester, Iowa, where he had shared a room with his son, Elvy, for three years. Moser was buried in the Guttenberg cemetery following services at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, where his grandson served as a pallbearer.

Added to his personal loss was an unhappy work life, where, he reflects, “I found myself buried at the bottom of everyone else, desperately writing my mean little poems and slipping them into the

-71-

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