Nebraska Authors

Ted Kooser

Born 1939 Ames, IA (USA)

Nebraska writer and poet Ted Kooser served two terms as Poet Laureate Of The United States, 2004-2006. His book Delights and Shadows won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Much has been written about him, both locally and nationally. There is a thorough scholarly biography in Mary K Stillwell's 2013 The Life & Poetry of Ted Kooser.

Kooser came to Lincoln in 1963 to study with the distinguished poet Karl Shapiro. Though Kooser later referred to his year in graduate school as a disaster, he made lasting friendships with Shapiro and with Wilbur Gaffney, both outsiders in the English department. At the end of that year Kooser had won a major award for his poetry--the Vreeland Award, but had lost his graduate fellowship. He took a job at Bankers Life Nebraska, where he made a career as a businessman and executive.

Kooser remained close to creative people he met at the University and in the community. Glenna Luschei of Solo Press, who played an important role in Kooser's career by publishing A Local Habitation & a Name (1974) with an introduction by Karl Shapiro, had been an assistant to Karl Shapiro at Prairie Schooner. Kooser rebuilt or renewed local and regional literary communities, undertaking the publication of a variety of little magazines over the years, an effort that lent a characteristic liveliness and humor to the local literary community. Those magazines included The Salt Creek Reader, The New Salt Creek Reader, The Blue Hotel, and The Oak Branch Gazette. His locally flavored Windflower Press brought out the first longer work by Bill Kloefkorn, and went on to develop an international following. Kooser collaborated with other Nebraska and Great Plains poets and writers. Well known collaborators included Jim Harrision, and again, Bill Kloefkorn. Kooser designed and illustrated books for other poets.

In the 1980s Kooser served on the Lincoln Library Board and he helped organize and in 1982 was founding president of The Nebraska Literary Heritage Association, formed to preserve and support the Heritage Room and its collection of Nebraska authors.

The Heritage Room is fortunate to have chapbooks, local small magazines published by Kooser, limited hand printed editions by Kooser and examples of Kooser's artwork. For many years, Kooser was famous for sending out poetic Valentines to local women (not so much a romantic as an artistic undertaking) and the former Director of Lincoln City Libraries, Carol Connor was a recipient, so though these were later collected in a book, we have the original cards in our Kooser file. Kooser's project as U.S. Poet Laureate was a weekly poetry newspaper column and we have a complete collection of his columns. Kooser painting and poster on Heritage Room entrance wall.

Kooser has been a frequent Ames Reader in the Heritage Room and recordings are available.

UNL Archives and Special Collections holds a Ted Kooser Collection.

Kooser has a website http://www.tedkooser.net/.


Places Lived

Lincoln, NE
Garland, NE

Author Of

  • Biography
  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Poetry
  • Visual Work


Nebraska Subjects; Memoir, Essays, Children's fiction; Iowa; Rural Life; Small Towns; Publisher; Paintings; Drawings; Valentines


Bachelor of Science Degree, 1962, Iowa State University
Master of Arts Degree, 1968, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE


Insurance Company Executive (Banker's Life)
Adjunct Professor for University of Nebraska, English Department

Places Worked

Lincoln Benefit Life (2nd VP for Marketing)
University of Nebraska-Lincoln


John H. Ames Reading Series, Featured Reader, 20 December 1984, 20 November 1986, 15 April 1999, 20 March 2008 and 20 November 2011
Nebraska 150 Books honor for Delights & Shadows, Local Wonders and Bag in the Wind, 2017
“150 Notable Nebraskans”, Number 34 on the Journal Star Sesquicentennial List of Significant Nebraskans
Society for Midland Authors Poetry Prize, 1980
Prairie Schooner Prize in Poetry, 1976 and 1978
NEA Writing Fellowships, 1976
Stanley Kunitz Poetry Prize, COLUMBIA MAGAZINE, 1984
Nebraska Literary Heritage Association’s Literary Heritage Award, 1989
Governor's Art Award
James Boatwright Award, 2000, Shenandoah
Nebraska Arts Council Merit Award in Poetry, 2000
Mari Sandoz Award, Nebraska Library Association, 2000
Nebraska Book Award for poetry, 2001
Barnes and Noble's 2002 Discover Great New Writers Award
Finalist for Barnes and Noble's 2002 Discover Great New Writers Award for Nonfiction, 2003
Gold Award in 2002 for Local Wonders from ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Awards program
Friends of American Writers Prize, 2003
Honorable mention, Society of Midland Authors nonfiction prize, 2003
First Place, ForeWord Magazine autobiographical writing competition, 2003
The Best American Poetry, 2003
Nebraska Book Award for nonfiction, 2003
Society of Midlands Authors Poetry Prize, 2004, 2005
Honorary Doctorate, University of Nebraska, 2004
Best Book of the Year, 2004, Delights and Shadows
United States Poet Laureate, 2004-2006
Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Delights and Shadows, 2005
Honorary Doctorate, South Dakota State University, 2005
Notable Book Citation, American Library Association, 2005, Delights and Shadows
Milton Kessler Award, State University of New York at Binghamton, 2005
The Best American Essays, 2005
Pushcart Prize, 2005, 2009, 2012
Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, 2005
Midwest Booksellers Association Poetry Award, 2005, 2007, 2008
Sower Award, Lincoln Community Foundation, 2005
Jason Award, Children’s Square, 2005
University of Nebraska Presidential Professorship, 2005, 2006, 2007
Sower Award, Nebraskaland Foundation, 2006
Sower Award, Nebraska Committee on the Humanities, 2006
Pulitzer Prize Jury in Poetry, 2006, 2011
Honorary Membership, Sigma Tau Delta, 2007
Distinguished Alumnus, Iowa State University, 2007
Alumni Achievement Award, University of Nebraska, 2007
Honorary Doctorate, State University of New York at Binghamton, 2008
Word Sender Award, John G. Neidhart Foundation, 2008
Honorary Doctorate, Doane College, 2009
Dedication of Ted Kooser Elementary School, 2009
Mildred Bennett Award, Nebraska Center of the Book, 2009
First recipient of the Hall-Kenyon Prize in American Poetry, October, 2010
Teacher Choice Award, International Reading Association, 2011
Honorary Board of Directors, The Poetry Center, Passaic, NJ, 2012
New York Best Illustrated Book, 2013, Held Up By Trees
Mark Twain Award, The Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature, 2013
Best Children’s Book of the Year, Children’s Book Committee, 2013, Held Up By Trees
National Council of Teachers of English Children;s Literature Assembly’s 2013 Notable Children in the Language Arts, Held Up By Trees
Nebraska Book Award for Children’s Books, 2013, Held Up By Trees
Jane Geske Award for American Life in Poetry, Nebraska Center for the Book, 2017
Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award, 2023, Marshmallow Clouds


Lincoln City Libraries Board of Directors
Nebraska Literary Heritage Association, co-founder, president and member
Member of the Creative Writing department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Karl Shapiro
Glenna Luschei
Leonard Nathan
Jim Harrison
Bill Kloefkorn
Greg Kuzma
Kathleen Rutledge


Official Entry Blank. 1969.
Grass County. 1971.
Twenty Poems. 1973.
A Local Habitation & a Name. 1974.
Shooting a Farmhouse
So This Is Nebraska. 1975.
Not Coming to Be Barked At. 1976.
Voyages to the Inland Sea. 1976.
Old Marriage and New.1978.
Cottonwood County. 1979. (with William Kloefkorn)
Sure Signs. 1980.
One World at a Time. 1985
The Blizzard Voices. 1986.
Swamp Root. 1989.
Dreams in Dry Places. 1990. (wrote the book forward)
Voices of the Plains. 1989. (audio cassette series)
Weather Central. 1994.
A Decade of Ted Kooser Valentines: 1987-1996. 1996.
Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison. 2000.
Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps. 2002.
Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry. 2003.
Wellsprings: A Collection of Poems From Six Nebraska Poets. 1995. (edited by Susanne George, UNK publication)
Delights and Shadows. 2004.
The Poetry Home Repair Manual. 2005.
Lights on a Ground of Darkness: An Evocation of a Time and Place. 2005.
Writing Brave and Free. 2006. (with Steve Cox)
Valentines. 2007. (Illustrations by Bob Hanna)
Bag in the Wind. 2010.
House Held up By Trees. 2012.
The Wheeling Year: A Poet's Field Book. 2014.
Splitting an Order. 2014.
Nebraska Poetry: A Sesquicentennial Anthology, 1867-2017. 2017. (Contributor)
Kindest Regards: New and Selected Poems. 2018.
Red Stilts. 2020.
A Man with a Rake. 2022.
Marshmallow Clouds: Two Poets at Play among Figures of Speech. 2022. (with Connie Wanek)
Cotton Candy : Poems Dipped Out of Air. 2022.

Kooser participated in the April, 1999 Ames Reading series program:

In March 2008, Ted Kooser was the featured speaker at the John H. Ames Reading Series in the Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors:

He returned to the Ames Reading Series in November 2011:

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Ted Kooser

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(e.g. Author is buried in Fremont, not in David City / Also wrote for the Daily Nebraskan during her time as a student)