Former Poet Laureate Ted Kooser turns eighty years young today. A near lifelong Nebraska resident, Kooser is one of the iconic poets of the Midwest and has published seven books of poetry with the University of Nebraska Press as well as contributing to even more.
To celebrate the occasion, we asked some of our authors from the Ted Kooser Contemporary Poetry Series to contribute their thoughts to celebrate the occasion.
Connie Wanek, author of Rival Gardens: New and Selected Poems (Nebraska, 2016) wrote the following after “Mother” from Kooser’s Delights and Shadows (Copper Canyon Press, May 2004):
Somewhere Ted Kooser’s mother is watching him turn 80 with astonishment. She raised him to be good, and “to see the life at play in everything.” The poetry, yes–that always touches her most deeply, of course. She approves of his moments of frugality, but she is profoundly pleased at his generosity, his “spirit” (she isn’t sure that’s the right word), the praise he gives others, the support he extends to noble human efforts…schools, hospitals, AA, his church, the arts, libraries. And something else: his dog Alice. That dog knew quality and she loved him beyond anything and anyone.
80 years old! She remembers the boy, sleepy in his flannel nightshirt. And now when his birthday comes around, she always thinks back to the open window, the fresh scent of irises, the hours of labor, and the joyful first sight of him. All his people feel the same.
And Joyce Sutphen, author of the forthcoming Carrying Water to the Field: New and Selected Poems (October 2019) wrote:
It has been my good fortune to have Ted Kooser’s wise advice as I prepared Carrying Water to the Field for publication in Ted’s Contemporary Poetry series. Ted and I are shy people and both very private, so he may not know how much I admire his beautiful poems and see the kindness and integrity in everything he does. It’s hard to believe that Ted is turning 80; his new poems are as alert and sustaining as ever—most of them written in the early hours of the day. He never stops being curious and observant, and his bright imagination transforms the ordinary into a believable form of sublime—his take on life is just right for my taste. Thanks for your poems Ted, and thanks for your help and inspiration. Happy Birthday! . . . and many happy returns of the day!
Happy Birthday, Ted!