Anderson Center presents poets Kooser, Hedin

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Two of the Midwest's most notable poets, Ted Kooser and Robert Hedin, will present a reading of their works at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 9, in the Anderson Center's historic barn.

Kooser, who lives in Nebraska, is a former U.S. poet laureate and the winner of a Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Hedin, who lives in Frontenac, is the retired co-founder and executive director of the Anderson Center artist community.

"Kooser and Hedin are two of the most iconic Midwest poets writing today," according to the Anderson Center's current executive director, Christopher Burawa. Both of them, he said, "are known for their honest, plainspoken verse that captures the vanishing way of life of rural and small town America."

He added, however, that they are not regional poets. "The subjects they write about are arguably universal and address the human condition."

Kooser was born in Iowa and worked for many years as a life insurance executive before retiring from business and devoting himself to writing. He served as the nation's poet laureate from 2004-2006, and his book "Delights & Shadows" won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005.

His poetry has been collected in numerous volumes and has appeared in many literary periodicals, plus his poems appear in textbooks and anthologies used in secondary school and college classrooms.

In addition to writing poetry and essays, he teaches graduate students in the creative writing program at the University of Nebraska.

Currently he offers just one class a year, Kooser said. "All of my students have been admitted on the basis of their own poetry and are therefore committed and eager. They want to be poets and to teach poetry, and some of them have gone on to publish books with respected presses."

He is reaching a much larger audience with his weekly newspaper column, "American Life in Poetry." Jointly sponsored by the University of Nebraska, the Library of Congress and the Poetry Foundation, the column is offered free to newspapers, teachers and others who would like to get it by email.

Current estimated worldwide circulation is 3.5 million people. The column is available online at www.americanlifeinpoetry.org.

Kooser's work is widely praised. Critic Dana Gioia commented, "...unlike most of his peers, he writes naturally for a nonliterary public. There is to my knowledge no poet of equal stature who writes so convincingly in a manner the average American can understand and appreciate."

Kooser's newspaper column is part of his commitment to furthering the cause of poetry to a general reading audience and to raise the visibility of poetry.

"I am very careful to select poems that a broad audience of general readers can understand. Though I suppose some of our audience has academic training in poetry, I am much more interested in reaching everyday newspaper readers," he said.

"Anybody can write a poem that nobody can understand, but it's hard to write one that is moving and beautiful."

Kooser added, "Robert Hedin writes that kind of poem."

Minnesota's poet laureate Joyce Sutphen agreed.

"Minnesota is fortunate to count (Hedin) as a native," she said. "His poems help us see our landscape ... in new ways: a tall hydrangea becomes a Chinese poet; the garden a galaxy."

Hedin is a translator and editor in addition to being a poet with 24 books, numerous other published works and multiple awards and honors over the past 40 years.

At the June 9 event, he will read from his recent publication, "At the Great Door of Morning," a collection of new and old poems and translations. Kooser wrote the foreword.

Kooser, who has made several visits to the Anderson Center and done a couple of previous readings there, encouraged anyone who has not been to Tower View to "stop by and look up at that towering sculpture of a rearing horse. It's magnificent.

"When I think of the center it's the first thing that comes to mind. To make a living thing from metal is a wonder."

During his upcoming visit, Kooser plans to read poems from a new chapbook called "At Home."

"I have just finished assembling my own new and selected poems for 2018 publication" by Copper Canyon Press, which also published the new Hedin book, he said.

In addition, he collaborated with Connie Wanek on poems for young people; that book has been accepted by Candlewick Press, which published his three previous books for children. One of them, "House Held Up by Trees," was a Nebraska Book Award winner.

A reception and book signing will follow the readings. Admission is $10; seating is limited to 117. For tickets, go online to www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2911801. For more information contact the Anderson Center, 651-388-2009, or www.andersoncenter.org.