America's poet will read new worksTed Kooser, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former poet laureate of the United States, will read from his work and sign books March 23 at the Anderson Center at Tower View.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
Ted Kooser, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former poet laureate of the United States, will read from his work and sign books March 23 at the Anderson Center at Tower View.
One of the nation’s most highly regarded poets, Kooser will debut some works from a new manuscript that is being printed by a fine letterpress operation in Washington state. The book should be out by the end of the year.
Titled “Together,” the book consists of “mostly poems about how people come together to help one another,” he said.
Kooser’s visit is at the invitation of Anderson Center Director Robert Hedin, who is poet laureate of Red Wing.
“I like it up there,” Kooser said, recalling a previous visit to Tower View a year or two ago.
“It’s the kind of place I like to go — pleasant, not fancy,” Kooser explained, adding he is an admirer of Hedin’s work as a poet and translator. “I admire what they have done at the Anderson Center.”
He will meet with the public during a 6:30 p.m. reception in the historic residence. The reading and a book signing will start at 7:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of the education building. Copies of some of his poetry volumes will be available for purchase.
Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa, and educated at Iowa State University and the University of Nebraska. He worked in the insurance industry for years, and is now a presidential professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln; he lives on a farm near Garland, Neb.
The author of 12 full-length collections of poetry, he has been praised for his clarity and accessibility and, according to the New York Times, his “genius for making the ordinary sacramental.”
Librarian of Congress James Billington said of Kooser, “He is a major poetic voice for rural and small-town America and the first poet laureate chosen from the Great Plains.”
He served in that post from 2004 to 2006 and in 2005 was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for his book “Delights & Shadows,” published by Copper Canyon Press.
Kooser’s poems are included in textbooks and anthologies used in secondary and college classrooms nationwide, and his work regularly appears in distinguished publications. He has received numerous fellowships and awards, including honorary doctorates from three universities, and writes a nationally syndicated newspaper column.
In addition to poetry, he has published three books of nonfiction, most recently “Lights on a Ground of Darkness,” and two children’s books.
Since reducing his college teaching to half time, Kooser said, he is exploring more things that he likes to do — hence the illustrated children’s books.
His first, “Bag in the Wind,” published by Candlewick Press in 2010, is a story about a plastic bag that blows out of a dump and is used by different people.
“House Held Up by Trees,” which will be out late this month, is set on the Mississippi River in Iowa, where his grandparents lived. The story centers on an old iron bridge, Kooser said. When he was a boy, he used to go out and ring that bridge with rocks. The story evolved from that memory.
The Anderson Center and Red Wing Public Library are hosts for his Red Wing reading, which is free and open to everyone.
The event will mark an unusual gathering of three poets laureate in one place, Hedin noted. Introducing Kooser will be Minnesota Poet Laureate Joyce Sutphen of Chaska. She is only the second person named to the state post, following Robert Bly.
“She is a really fine poet,” Kooser said. “It will be nice to see her.”
Sutphen grew up on a farm in St. Joseph, Minn., and now teaches at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn. She has written four books of poetry, including the 2004 Minnesota Book Award winner, “Naming the Stars.”
The Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council and a Legacy Grant funded Kooser’s appearance. For more information, call the center at 651-388-2009.
If you go…
Who: Poet Ted Kooser
What: Reading and book signing
When: 6:30/7:30 p.m. Friday, March 23
Where: Anderson Center at Tower View
More info: 651-388-2009
Poems by Ted Kooser
FLYING AT NIGHT
Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.
THE FAN IN THE WINDOW
It is September, and a cool breeze
from somewhere ahead is turning the blades;
night, and the slow flash of the fan
the last light between us and the darkness.
Dust has begun to collect on the blades,
haymaker’s dust from distant fields,
dust riding to town on the night-black wings
of the crows, a thin frost of dust
which clings to the fan in just the way
we cling to the earth as it spins.
The fan has brought us through,
its shiny blades like the screw of a ship
that has pushed its way through summer—
cut flowers awash in its wake,
the stagnant Sargasso Sea of July
far behind us. For the moment, we rest,
we lie in the dark hull of the house,
we rock in the troughs off the shore
of October, the engines cooling,
the fan blades so lazily turning, but turning.
After the funeral, the mourners gather
under the rustling churchyard maples
and talk softly, like clusters of leaves.
White shirt cuffs and collars flash in the shade:
highlights on deep green water.
They came this afternoon to say goodbye,
but now they keep saying hello and hello,
peering into each other’s faces,
slow to let go of each other’s hands.
I scratched your name in longhand
on the night, then you wrote mine.
I couldn’t see you, near me,
laughing and chasing my name
through the air, but I could hear
your heart, I think, and feel your breath
against the darkness, hurrying.
One word swirled out of your hand
as you rushed hard to write it
all the way out to its end
before its beginning was gone.
It left a frail red line
trembling along on the darkness,
and that was my name, my name.