An evening among friendsDespite his prestige as being a former United States poet laureate, when Ted Kooser read a sampling of his work to a small crowd Friday at the Anderson Center, it was as if he was speaking to friends.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Despite his prestige as being a former United States poet laureate, when Ted Kooser read a sampling of his work to a small crowd Friday at the Anderson Center, it was as if he was speaking to friends.
The details in his poems had people hanging on to his words, feeling his emotions, laughing with him during “At Arbys at Noon” and sympathetically sighing as he finished reading about his mother’s death.
“I think he’s one of the finest poets that America has to offer,” Anderson Center Director Robert Hedin said of Kooser.
The 72-year-old Iowa native came to Red Wing to be featured in the Anderson Center’s fourth annual Writer’s Reading Series, and it wasn’t his first time in town. Kooser had previously stopped through and toured the Anderson Center years earlier.
“It’s really quite a marvelous place,” he said, adding that there aren’t many arts facilities like it in the region.
Having grown up in Iowa and now residing in Nebraska, Kooser draws a lot of poetic inspiration from the surroundings he’s called home for so many years.
“He is quintessential Midwestern,” Hedin noted. “You can really sense the heart of the Midwest in his work.”
There was more than just the Midwest represented at Friday night’s reading. As if having such a respected poet sharing his works at the Anderson Center didn’t make locals fortunate enough already, they were also treated to a brief reading by one of Kooser’s close friends — Debra Winger.
“He called up and wanted to know if he could bring her along,” Hedin remembered, adding that he obviously said yes. “It was such a treat and surprise to have Debra Winger here.”
Winger published a book of vignettes called “Undiscovered” in 2008, but that was long after she had known Kooser. While shooting a movie in Lincoln, Neb. in the 1980s, Winger went on a date with then-Governor Bob Kerrey.
“He thought the most impressive thing he could do was introduce me to his friend Ted Kooser,” she joked.
Turns out that really was the most impressive thing that could have been done, because the meeting left an everlasting imprint.
“I remember walking in the door and seeing Ted … and I thought, ‘This may or may not last (with Bob), but I’m going to know that guy forever,’” she said of Kooser.