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Iowa History Daily: April 25 - US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser

Iowa History Daily: On April 25, 1939, Pulitzer Prize winner and 13th Poet Laureate of the United States, Ted Kooser, was born in Ames, Iowa. Known for his conversational poetry style featured across dozens of published works, Kooser’s work continues to garner awards and elicit high praise from critical audiences around the world.

Growing up on West 9th Street in Ames, Kooser attended Beardshear Elementary School while living next door to the Mezvinsky family of Ames Fruit & Grocery fame. A Little Cyclone, the future poet graduated from Ames High School in 1957. Kooser credits Ames High teacher Mary McNally with encouraging him to write about his own experiences. Kooser developed a fascination with automobiles while working on his flame-adorned 1931(ish) Hot-Rod named Henrietta, and served as secretary of the Night Crawlers Car Club during high school. 

After High School, Kooser decided to attend Iowa State and excelled as a short-story writer for the Iowa State student Literary Magazine while trading stories with future US Senator Tom Harkin as a part of the Iowa State Writer’s Round Table. In 1962, Kooser completed a BA in English and Speech at Iowa after student teaching in Marshalltown. He briefly moved to Cedar Rapids before enrolling at the University of Nebraska to pursue an MA. During his time as a graduate student in Lincoln, Kooser won the 1964 Vreeland Award for Poetry.

Following his graduation as a Cornhusker, Kooser continued to write while also pursuing a career in insurance. A success in both fields, he retired as the Vice President of Lincoln Benefit Life at age 60. In the meantime, a routine based on writing each morning before work led Kooser to literary success. 

Winner of dozens of prestigious fellowships and awards including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pushcart Prize, Kooser’s 2004 work “Delights & Shadows” won him the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2005. In 2004 Kooser became the first (and only) Poet Laureate of the United States from Iowa. He served in the role for the Library of Congress. A Professor Emeritus at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kooser continues to represent an international voice for the Midwest. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar #IowaOTD


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