Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Theodore J. Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa, in 1939. His parents, Theodore B. Kooser and Vera (Moser) Kooser, both Iowa natives, met while working in a dry goods store in Ames. Kooser married Diana Tressler in 1962, but they divorced in 1969. The couple had one son, Jeff. After earning a bachelor’s degree in English education at Iowa State University, Kooser entered graduate school at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, to study with the university’s resident poet Karl Shapiro.
Kooser would earn his master’s degree in 1968, but before graduation, he lost a university fellowship award and was forced to find a way to support himself. He became an underwriter and later a vice president of the Lincoln Benefit Life Company, where he worked until his retirement in 1999. During his years as an insurance executive, Kooser developed a habit of rising early to compose his poetry before work—a discipline he has maintained even after his retirement.
Kooser’s early poetry first appeared in brief volumes produced by small literary presses. Eventually, several literary magazines such as The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, The Atlantic Monthly, and Prairie Schooner began to feature his poems. In 1977, Kooser married Kathleen Rutledge, editor of the Lincoln Journal Star. His collection Sure Signs, published in 1980, attracted national attention. In the late 1990’s, while recovering from treatment for...
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Like Wallace Stevens, Ted Kooser made his living as an insurance company executive, retiring from Lincoln Benefit Life only recently. Unlike Stevens, Kooser writes for everyman in an accessible and non-literary manner. Considered one of Nebraska's leading poets, Kooser was born to merchant Ted, Sr. and Vera Moser Kooser in 1939 in Ames, Iowa, and educated in the Ames public school system. At Iowa State University in Ames he took his BS in English Education in 1962. Six years later he received an MA in English from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Both Iowa and Nebraska are Great Plains states, and with their flat expanse, and relatively small populations, they provides stargazers with a view of the heavens unob-scured by city lights and smog. Light, particularly starlight and moonlight, is a recurring image in many of Kooser's poems.
Kooser married Diana Tressler, a teacher, and had a son, Jeffrey Charles, in 1967, the son in "The Constellation Orion." In 1969 Tressler and Kooser divorced, and Kooser remarried afterward. He writes about both of his marriages in his 1978 collection of poems, Old Marriage and New.
Kooser has authored many volumes of poems including Sure Signs: New and Selected Poems (1980), One World at a Time (1985), and Weather Central (1994), all from the University of Pittsburgh Press, and has published pamphlets and books of his own with Windflower Press, a small press started by Kooser...
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Ted Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa, in April 1939. His father was a storekeeper and his mother was a teacher. He attended Iowa State University in Ames, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1962, the same year that he married his first wife, Diana Tressler. The couple had one son but later divorced. Kooser taught high school briefly and then enrolled in the graduate writing program at the University of Nebraska. By his own admission, he did not have the discipline to be an academic, and so his postgraduate career ended after only a year.
In 1964, Kooser took an entry-level position at Bankers Life, an insurance company in Lincoln, Nebraska; this was the start of a thirty-five-year career in the insurance industry. During the years that he worked in insurance, Kooser wrote poetry, usually in the morning, before going to the office. He also taught at the University of Nebraska as an adjunct professor of writing from 1975 to 1990.
His first collection of poetry, Official Entry Blank, was published in 1969. Over the next few decades, he continued to write and publish, winning several major awards, including two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships in poetry, the Pushcart Prize, the Stanley Kunitz Prize, the James Boatwright Prize, and two Society of Midland Authors prizes. He also ascended in his...
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