Nebraska Center for Writers

Chimney Rock What the Critics Say
About Ted Kooser


The Blizzard Voices
Copyright © 1986
by Ted Kooser
Bieler P

A dramatized poetic narrative of the devastation unleashed on Nebraska Territory by the great blizzard of January 12, 1888. Drawn from the reminiscences of the survivors: the men and women who were teaching school, working the land, tending the house... when the storm arrived and changed their lives forever. Illustrated with twelve line drawings by Tom Pohrt. — from the jacket

Braided Creek:
A Conversation in Poetry
Copyright © 2003
by Ted Kooser
Copper Canyon P

They sound betimes like up-to-date imagists or haiku poets, pungent rural epigrammatists out of Jonathan Williams’ Blues & Roots, Rue & Bluets (1971) and Wendell Berry’s Sayings & Doings (1975), or just two crusty old codgers. Their conversation always repays eavesdropping. — Booklist

There are poems on the natural world, aging, dying, friendship, love and eros. There is abundant humor. ... There also is distilled wisdom. — Houston Chronicle

So what we have here is a small book of finely etched verse by two experienced poets. It is something that many readers will want to carry around with them and dip into on occasion. Braided Creek is a vademecum or field guide for the soul. — Bloomsbury Review

[Braided Creek] unfolds like a Japanese kaiseki feast, a procession of delectable morsels. It is tempting to gobble them all at once, but a slow savoring leaves one with a sense of satiety and celebration. — ForeWord

... Both Harrison and Kooser show a "coming of wisdom with time." Kooser has been diagnosed with cancer, which may in part account for the intensity of the language and the sweeping philosophical stance of these quiet poems by two gifted men. — Rocky Mountain News

Here's a book of glorious, intimate tidbits ... filled with such small yet expansive moments, perfectly defined. — The Tennessee Commercial Appeal

For those who have ears to hear, infinity hums in the taut lines and compact images of this conversation in poetry. Seamless, poignant and profound, "Braided Creek" is a book worth listening to time and again. — The Wichita Eagle

Delights and Shadows
Copyright © 2004
by Ted Kooser
Copper Canyon P

Ted Kooser is a master of metaphor, a poet who deftly connects disparate elements of the world and communicates with absolute precision. Critics call him a "haiku-like imagist" and his poems have been compared to Chekov's short stories. In Delights and Shadows, Kooser draws inspiration from the overlooked details of daily life. Quotidian objects like a pegboard, creamed corn and a forgotten salesman's trophy help reveal the remarkable in what before was a merely ordinary world. — from the publisher

Like Kentucky's Wendell Berry, Kooser is a poet of place. But just as Kooser's eastern Nebraska is more modestly impressive than Berry's lush, riverine Kentucky, Kooser's poetry is more restrained than Berry's. Kooser is less big-C culturally concerned, less anxious about the destiny of nation and world. Kooser carries religion far more lightly; he envisions faith passing as casually "from door to door" as a pair of plaster or plastic "Praying Hands" en route to "every thrift shop in America." Having survived a major health crisis, Kooser is warier of death; in "Surviving" he writes of "days when the fear of death / is as ubiquitous as light," extending even to the ladybird beetle, paralyzed when "the fear of death, so attentive / to everything living, comes near." Though he focuses as often as Berry on memories, Kooser is less historically and more personally conscious in his poems of recollection. And Berry has come up with no finer metaphor than that of Kooser's "Memory," in which recall is a benignly ruthless tornado. Ray Olson — Booklist

Kooser documents the dignities, habits and small griefs of daily life, our hunger for connection, our struggle to find balance. — Poetry

Delights and Shadows ... is proof that poetry need not be forbidding, or difficult, or intentionally obscure. Kooser really looks at things and tells you what you're missing. He is moved to capture the subtle beauties of life. — Jim Rees, Lincoln Journal Star

In Kooser's hands, the commonplace ceases to be ordinary. The sense one gets from these fifty-nine poems is that of a person who appreciates deeply the brevity and value of life — not in some large, abstract sense, but within daily activities — and who is therefore determined to let none of it escape his attention. — Nebraska Center for the Book News

Flying at Night: Poems 1965-1985
Copyright © 2005
by Ted Kooser
U of Pittsburgh P

Named US Poet Laureate for 2004-2005, Ted Kooser is one of America's masters of the short metaphorical poem. Dana Gioia has remarked that Kooser has written more perfect poems than any poet of his generation.
In Flying at Night: Poems 1965-1985, Kooser has selected poems from two of his earlier works, Sure Signs (1980) and One World at a Time (1985). Taken together or read one at a time, these poems clearly show why William Cole, writing in the Saturday Review, called Ted Kooser "a wonderful poet," and why Peter Stitt, writing in the Georgia Review, proclaimed him "a skilled and cunning writer. ... An authentic 'poet of the American people.'"— from the publisher

Will one day rank alongside of Edgar Lee Masters, Robert Frost, and William Carlos Williams. — Minneapolis Tribune

Ted Kooser is a poet whose company will always be welcome, whether in Nebraska or in East Anglia. — Hudson Review

Kooser ... write[s] from the heart's home. — New York Times

Lights on a Ground of Darkness:
An Evocation of a Place and Time
Copyright © 2009
by Ted Kooser
Bison Books

Like the yellow, pink, and blue irises that had been transplanted from house to house over the years, the stories of poet Ted Kooser's family had been handed down until, as his mother lay ill and dying, he felt an urgency to write them down. With a poet's eye for detail, Kooser captures the beauty of the landscape and the vibrancy of his mother's Iowa family, the Mosers, in precise, evocative language.
The center of the family’s love is Kooser's uncle, Elvy, a victim of cerebral palsy. Elvy's joys are fishing, playing pinochle, and drinking soda from the ice chest at his father's roadside Standard Oil station. Kooser's grandparents, their kin, and the activities and pleasures of this extended family spin out and around the armature of Elvy's blessed life.
Kooser has said that writing this book was the most important work he has ever undertaken because it was his attempt to keep these beloved people alive against the relentless erosion of time. — from the publisher

Local Wonders:
Seasons in the Bohemian Alps
Copyright © 2002
by Ted Kooser
U of Nebraska P

Ted Kooser describes with exquisite detail and humor the place he calls home in the Bohemian Alps of southeastern Nebraska. Like many other people in this rural area, he has what he calls "wolf vision" — he sees every change in the landscape around him. Nothing is too big or too small for his attention. Memories of his grandmother's cooking are juxtaposed with reflections about the old-fashioned outhouse on his property. In the end, what makes life meaningful for Kooser are the ways in which his neighbors care for one another and how an afternoon walking with an old dog, or baking a pie, or decorating the house for Christmas can summon memories of his Iowa childhood. This writer is a seer in the truest sense of the word, discovering the extraordinary within the ordinary, the deep beneath the shallow, the abiding wisdom in the pithy Bohemian proverbs that are woven into his essays. And when casting his eye on social progress, Kooser reminds us that the closing of local schools, thoughtless county weed control, and irresponsible housing development destroy more than just the view. At stake are communities, as well as families, our health, and arguably our very souls. — from the jacket

Ted Kooser's Local Wonders is the quietest magnificent book I've ever read. — Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall.

Local Wonders takes its luminous place in the time-honored tradition of seasonal contemplation within a cherished place. It is a companionate book — bright of eye and wit, warm with the details and reflections of the world. — Merrill Gilfillan, author of Grasshopper Falls

Kooser claims he doesn't like to travel, but for someone who stays put, he does an awful lot of sightseeing. Hindsight, foresight, near sight, far sight, insight, out of sight, you name it — Local Wonders takes us both 'out far' and 'in deep.'" — Judith Kitchen, author of Only the Dance: Essays on Time and Memory

Through his eyes we learn to see, then appreciate, the beauty and grace in everyday miracles, the comfort and sanctity in local wonders. — Booklist

When you read Ted Kooser's Local Wonders, you question where he's been all these years. He'd probably tell you he's been right here, amidst all of us, working the simplicity of words, the clarity of insights. What he wouldn't tell you is that he has the quiet ability to sneak beneath your skin and ripple it ever so slightly. ... Set back in the hills of southeastern Nebraska — the Bohemian Alps — Kooser's book doesn't venture far geographically but travels great distances along the lengths of wisdom. ... Kooser is a poet by nature, and his essays have the generous feel of a man who's rolled up his sleeves, pen in hand, for a long time, choosing words as an act of beauty, and knowing the small things of the world are of great import. — The Bloomsbury Review

A quietly eloquent diary of a year in a small town in Nebraska. ... This is a heartfelt plainspoken book about slowing down and appreciating the world around you. ... Maybe it's exactly the feeling your friends, even you, are looking for. — New York Times book critic Janet Maslin on CBS News Sunday Morning

Eloquent meditations on country pleasures, the rhythms of the seasons and the lingering presence of Czech folk culture in rural Nebraska. — Newsday

Clear, generous, and imaginative, Local Wonders increases the sum of the world's best goods. — Speakeasy

If royalty checks were paid to writer Ted Kooser whenever a book lover turned a page of Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps, this poet, painter and author would be a wealthy man. And justly so. Local Wonders should be read and reread. It is a treasure, like the ripe wild plums Mr Kooser, a retired insurance executive, picks along rural Nebraska roadsides. — Tallahassee Democrat

With Thoreaulike reflection and insight, the author artfully engaged this reader in a lyrical embroidery of this neighborhood frontier. Weaving images in soothing language, Kooser meticulously captures the nuances of life as it evolves in a country setting in which he is both observe and participant. — Dan Semrad, Lincoln Journal-Star

One World at a Time
Copyright © 1985
by Ted Kooser
U of Pittsburgh P

In the closing poem of this new collection, a spider brushes globes of dew from her web, "one world at a time." Since Ted Kooser's poems first began to appear in print, some twenty eyars ago, they h ave moved, as he has said, "from job to job, from love to love," with great patience and care, as if each poem were a miniature world that needed completion before being left to stand alone.
Kooser is one of America's masters of the short metaphorical poem, and the poems in this new book represent refinements in his work since the Pit Poetry Series published his award-winning Sure Signs in 1980. — from the jacket

This electrifying feeling of discovery and kinship reminds me of Larkin's description of his passion for New Orleans jazz, "On me your voice falls as they say love should,/Like an enormous yes." I felt that "enormous yes" the first time I read particular poems by Weldon Kees, Ted Kooser. ... — Dana Gioia

A skilled and cunning writer. ... an authentic "poet of the American people." — Peter Stitt, Georgia Review

Will one day rank alongside of Edgar Lee Masters, Robert Frost, and William Carlos Williams. — Minneapolis Tribune

Kooser has written more perfect poems than any poet of his generation. — Dana Gioia, Can Poetry Matter?

Sure Signs
Copyright © 1980
by Ted Kooser
U of Pittsburgh P

I found it impossible to put Sure Signs down until I had finished the entire book. It was like sitting next to a box of chocolates before dinner...a collection alternately delightful and mysterious. — Dana Gioia, The Hudson Review

Kooser is the master of the short poem. I found it impossible to put Sure Signs down until I had finished the entire book. It is a pleasure to read a poet like Kooser whose imagination is naturally metaphorical. — Hudson Review

Ted Kooser's Sure Signs could well become a classic, precisely because so many of the poems are not only excellent but are readily possessible. — Black Warrior Book Review

Weather Central
Copyright © 1994
by Ted Kooser
U of Pittsburgh P

Weather Central, Ted Kooser's latest book, reinforces his title as poet laureate of Nebraska, whether the governor has gotten around to making the appointment or not. As we might ideally wish all poets to be, Kooser is a spokesperson for his tribe. I can't imagine a person from Nebraska, Kansas, or western Missouri reading his poems and not thinking, "Yes, that's how it is around here."
Kooser's virtues are those traditionally ascribed to the Midwest: plainspokenness, modesty, common sense. He sits on his porch, uninterested in academic cant or the fashions of poetic schools, and takes in the world around, praising its quiet beauty....Kooser has always been an archeologist of sorts. An abandoned schoolhouse, a deserted forge, an old stoneware crock — all set him wondering, trying to reconstruct the lives of those who used them. Even in his earliest published poems, the elegiac note came naturally to Kooser, both celebration and lament for a way of life that was disappearing as farm families moved to the city. — The Bloomsbury Review

Will one day rank alongside of Edgar Lee Masters, Robert Frost, and William Carlos Williams. — Minneapolis Tribune

Kooser offers some fine historical/autobiographial work too, as when he recalls the Gilbert Stuart Portrait of Washington in his old schoolroom: "We thought / those aisles were parallel, that our days / would never arrive at the vanishing point. / Before us always, he who could never tell a lie / kept his jaws closed on the truth," a conclusion both graceful and unsentimental. His customary voice is rational, restrained, wary, observant; but he can howl with the wind — as in "Snakeskin": "All it knows is behind it already / Nothing it knows is ahead." This is a poet who is conscious of the world's spin (he refers to it a couple of times), but who is never portentous. ... Ted Kooser is a poet whose company will always be welcome, whether in Nebraska or East Anglia. — Hudson Review

As the excellent critic Dana Gioia has remarked (Can Poetry Matter? [1992]), Kooser is a popular poet in the sense that he speaks of nonliterary experience in nonliterary language. You don't have to know literature or literary manners to get a lot out of his poetry; it's not highfalutin. Because he writes of such ordinary things as noticing the weather, suddenly remembering one's own past, and imaginatively projecting our human consciousness into other creatures and even things (see "A Heart of Gold," the "protagonist" of which is a bottle of beer), he runs the risk of sentimentality, of letting emotion overpower reason and observable reality. But sentimentality rarely gets the better of him, and to anyone familiar with the great, regular middle of North America — Kooser was born in Iowa but lives in Nebraska — the scenes and actions in his poetry (especially the way that, in several poems, light — the quintessential physical reality on the plains — is a virtually corporeal actor) will seem, to paraphrase Pope, things often seen but ne'er so well observed. — Booklist

Much of the power of Kooser’s work is accretive, since for decades he has been constructing out of individual poems a long ... and important life-work in the manner of Robinson’s Tilbury Town, Master’s Spoon River, or Hugo’s Great Northwest. Throughout his splendid new Weather Central, Kooser’s individual poems are evocative, often perfectly realized. ... He is uncanny in selecting ... right-seeming metaphors; he is also a realist and a nearly haiku-like imagist whose tropes are rarely dramatically transformative but rather, clarifying ... any number of ... splendid poems here ought to find their place in the representative anthologies of our time. Kooser documents the dignities, habits, and small griefs of daily life, our hunger for connection, our struggle to find balance in natural and unnaturally human worlds. — David Baker, Poetry

Great poetry, like Kooser’s, like Chekhov’s stories, is not sentimental but it is characterized by a kind of tender wisdom communicated with absolute precision. — Jonathan Holden, North Dakota Quarterly

Winter Morning Walks
One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison
Copyright © 2001
by Ted Kooser
Carnegie-Mellon UP

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