Prolific Great Plains author to be new U.S. poet laureate

Ted Kooser, here in an undated file photo, will be the next poet laureate of the United States. Kooser, 65, replaces Pulitzer Prize winner Louise Gluck.Kathy Rutledge / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Great Plains poet Ted Kooser of Nebraska will be the next poet laureate of the United States.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington planned to officially announce the appointment Thursday.

“Ted Kooser is a major poetic voice for rural and small-town America and the first poet laureate chosen from the Great Plains,” Billington said. “His verse reaches beyond his native region to touch on universal themes in accessible ways.”

Kooser, 65, replaces Pulitzer Prize winner Louise Gluck in the one-year position.

The poet laureate’s job carries with it few specific duties, to allow the writer to work on his or her own projects. The post includes an office at the Library of Congress, a $35,000 salary and an obligation to deliver and organize readings. Previous poets laureate include Robert Frost, Gwendolyn Brooks and Rita Dove.

“I really want to throw myself into this and do what I can to further people’s interest in poetry,” Kooser said Wednesday. “I see part of my job as being a promoter of poetry of all kinds.”

Author of 10 books
Kooser has written 10 collections of poetry, most recently “Delights & Shadows,” published this year.

His 1980 collection, “Sure Signs,” received the Society of Midland Authors Prize for the best book of poetry by a Midwestern writer published in that year. His 2000 collection, “Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison,” won the 2001 Nebraska Book Award for Poetry.

Kooser’s work has appeared in a number of periodicals including The New Yorker, The Hudson Review and Prairie Schooner.

Kooser said he has always been dedicated to writing poetry that people can understand. “What I think poetry can do is give people fresh ways to look at the world,” Kooser said. “I attempt in my poems to take ordinary things and look at them in a new light.”

An Iowa native and poet at age 18, Kooser graduated from Iowa State University in 1962 and earned his master’s degree in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1968. He is a visiting professor and teaches writing in the university’s English Department.

Kooser, who is married to Lincoln Journal Star Editor Kathleen Rutledge, will take up his duties in the fall.