On Feb. 3 Rio Grande Valley lovers of literature will have the opportunity to hear the Poet Laureate of the United States, Ted Kooser, during a public reading of his works at The University of Texas-Pan American. Hosted by the UTPA English Department, the event will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Union Auditorium and is free and open to the public.
Kooser is the author of ten collections of poetry, most recently "Delights & Shadows" (2004). Kooser has received numerous recognitions for his poetry including two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, the Pushcart Prize, the Stanley Kunitz Prize, the James Boatwright Prize and a Merit Award from the Nebraska Arts Council. Kooser's work "Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison" won the 2001 Nebraska Book Award for Poetry. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Hudson Review, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere.
Kooser, a former life insurance company executive, is a visiting English professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa in 1939. He earned his bachelor's degree at Iowa State University in 1962 and his master's degree at the University of Nebraska in 1968.
The designation of Poet Laureate Consultant, initiated in 1937, is made by the Library of Congress. The post includes an office in the Library, a $35,000 stipend but few specific duties allowing the writer to work on his/her own projects. Over the years, the position has become an instrument to expose more citizens across the country to poetry through organized public readings of the poet's work and the introduction of the work of other poets and authors. Previous poet laureates have included Robert Frost, Gwendolyn Brooks and Robert Pinsky. Kooser replaces the last Poet Laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner Louise Gluck, in the one-year position.
Quoted at the time of the August 2004 appointment of Kooser, current Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said, "Ted Kooser is a major poetic voice for rural and small town America and the first Poet Laureate chosen from the Great Plains. His verse reaches beyond his native region to touch on universal themes in accessible ways."
While here, Schneider said the poet will also attend and read to a selected UTPA English class. At the public reading, some of Kooser's books will be available for purchase and signing. For more information, contact the UTPA English Department at 956/381-3421.