A Tribute to Ted Kooser: An Interview with Ted Kooser

By Meats, Stephen | The Midwest Quarterly, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

A Tribute to Ted Kooser: An Interview with Ted Kooser


Meats, Stephen, The Midwest Quarterly


TMQ: How would you say your parents influenced your becoming a poet?

Kooser: My father was a storekeeper, loved the public, and was a marvelous storyteller. I remember a woman once said to me that she'd rather hear my dad describe a person than see the person herself. He had an interest in the theater, too, and he and Mother belonged to a group that got together to read plays. Sitting in our living room listening to those plays was, I think, my first experience of literature as fun. We also had a few books, a collected Balzac, a collected plays of Ibsen, the novels of John Fox, Jr., the works of Dumas pere. I read them all.

TMQ: Same question about the landscape and the people of the Great Plains, particularly your region of Nebraska-Iowa. What role have they played in your becoming a poet and in your work?

Kooser: I have never lived anywhere else, and I've always written about what I've experienced. I might have written about different landscapes if I'd lived somewhere else, but I think the poems might have been much the same. My interest is in writing about the ordinary, and the ordinary is everywhere.

TMQ: What poems by other writers have served as touchstones for your own writing?

Kooser: I have been thinking lately how much I may have been influenced by May Swenson's poems. I think To Mix with Time was one of the first books I read and reread. Several years ago someone brought out a posthumous book of her nature poems and when I read it I recalled how much I'd been inspired by her. I also remember being very interested in the poems of John Crowe Ransom. Also E. A. Robinson and Frost. I read anything and everything when I was young and I couldn't possibly list all the poets who've had some influence on me. Today I look to Nancy Willard and Linda Pastan and other Americans, and Thomas Transtromer and Roll Jacobsen, the two last in Bly's translations.

TMQ: You mention that your father was a marvelous storyteller. I've heard from some of your close friends that you love to tell stories and to hear stories, as well. What role does narrative play in your work?

Kooser: I have written very few poems in which narrative seemed to be leading. There's a poem in Delights & Shadows, "The Beaded Purse," that is indeed a narrative, but it seems quite unlike most of my work, which works with single moments rather than sequences of moments. Poets have tried to write narratives in verse and some of them are quite effective, at least to me as a literary person, but I have always wondered how they might be received by everyday readers. Novels are much less intimidating than poems, and if I were to choose between reading a good story in verse and one in prose I think I'd go for the prose. Literary people have interest in narrative poetry, but it's my guess that most narrative poems wouldn't compete very well in paperback on an airport book rack. David Mason has a new poem about the Ludlow Mine disaster that is very well done, and a part of it has been in Hudson Review.

TMQ: Still dealing with influences, but in a different vein. Was religion a significant part of your life growing up? Has religious belief been important to your poetry?

Kooser: We were Methodists but only went to church a few times a year, on holidays usually. I am not a traditional believer by any means, but I do believe in a universal order. But it doesn't have a personality. I don't think I have been much influenced by anything in any way churchly.

TMQ: Your work has sometimes been described as "accessible." What is your view of such labels? I ask this because I find your work accessible, but not at all simplistic, yet I believe that some readers, and even some critics, have trouble separating the two.

Kooser: I don't object to my poems being called accessible, and I work hard during the process of revision to make them clear. I revise away from difficulty and toward clarity and simplicity. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

A Tribute to Ted Kooser: An Interview with Ted Kooser
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.