Nation’s new poet laureate to give reading at Western

Poet Laureate Ted Kooser

Poet Laureate Ted Kooser

CULLOWHEE – The nation’s newly appointed poet laureate, Ted Kooser of Nebraska, will bring his straightforward style of Great Plains-flavored verse to Western Carolina University for a public reading Sunday, Nov. 7.

The free presentation will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the theater of Western’s A.K. Hinds University Center.

Kooser’s appointment as the 13th “poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress” was announced Aug. 12 by James H. Billington, librarian of Congress.

“Ted Kooser is a major poetic voice for rural and small-town America and the first poet laureate chosen from the Great Plains,” Billington said in announcing the appointment. “His verse reaches beyond his native region to touch on universal themes in accessible ways.”

Kooser is the author of 10 collections of poetry and prose, with his most recent work, “The Poetry Home Repair Manual,” due out soon. His other books include “Delights & Shadows,” “Sure Signs,” “One World at a Time,” “Weather Central” and “Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison.” A book of his essays, “Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps,” was chosen as the Best Book by a Midwestern Writer in 2002 by Friends of American Writers.

Kooser also is the author, with his longtime friend Jim Harrison, of “Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry,” for which the two poets received the 2003 Award for Poetry from the Society of Midland Authors. Harrison visited Western last spring to present a reading as part of the university’s Spring Literary Festival.

Kooser’s other awards and honors include two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, the Pushcart Prize, the Stanley Kunitz Price, the James Boatwright Prize and a Merit Award from the Nebraska Arts Council.

Born in Ames, Iowa, in 1939, Kooser began working for an insurance company while pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Nebraska, but he committed himself to the craft of poetry by getting up early enough each morning to write before going to work. Although Kooser retired as a vice president for Lincoln Benefit Life Insurance Co., he still adheres to that early-morning poetry writing regimen. He is now a visiting professor in the English department at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

The Nov. 7 reading at Western will be followed by a book-signing session. Copies of Kooser’s works will be available for purchase.

Kooser’s presentation at Western is being sponsored by the university’s Parris Distinguished Professorship in Appalachian Cultural Studies and Honors College. The event is part of the Honors College’s Jerry Jackson Lectures in the Humanities Series.

For more information, contact Western’s Honors College at (828) 227-7383.