Ted Kooser: Great Poet Of The Great Plains

1143 words - 5 pages

Thomas Jefferson, one of the greatest men in American history, described his vision for the United States of America as a land of agrarian people. However, now, over two centuries later, the US faces a very different reality dominated by the growth of the urban metropolis, by industry, by the stoic bankers of Wall Street. Despite this, the poetry of Ted Kooser immortalizes a quickly vanishing lifestyle of rustic America on the vast expanses of the Great Plains. Kooser was born in a small Iowa town in April 1939 and received a degree from Iowa State University. After working at Lincoln Benefit Life, an insurance corporation, for over three decades, he made history by becoming the first poet ...view middle of the document...

One can picture the action of blind men as they feel around with their canes, isolated amongst the chaos. More often however, he includes many examples traditional metaphor in his poems: “Kooser is a fine portraitist; there are a number of neatly sketched, affecting people in these pages. He fortifies his empathy and admirably clean lines with a gift -- his primary gift -- for...metaphor” (Leithauser). As a result of the prevalent use of metaphor in his works to create imagery, the “difficulties [Kooser’s poems] provoke are experiential rather than textual” (Gioia), making them unique and difficult to fully comprehend, partly due also to their simplicity and the author’s commitment to relative plainness. This gives Kooser a particular individuality amongst modern poets. Kooser’s metaphors manage to get “both sides to work perfectly well together” (Baker), vital to his command over making his figurative language understandable to almost all of his readers, especially to the unbookish ones. His poems almost always have a clear shift, a result of his ability to use figurative language to turn even the most commonplace items into something special: “[Kooser’s poetry] is simple without becoming shallow, striking without going to extremes. He has achieved the most difficult kind of originality. He has transformed the common idiom and experience into fresh and distinctive poetry” (Gioia). Overall, his poetry has been described as “brief, imagistic, and accessible” (Kennedy), an extremely difficult task to accomplish as he maintains the strength of his metaphors and similes.. Kooser’s style is defined by strong use of figurative language to give meaning to other language devices and the poem itself.
Kooser’s works explore a wide variety of themes, but in many, the underlying idea of a need for the preservation of culture despite inevitable change is present. Kooser was born in rural Iowa and now lives in Nebraska, and thus has been around the culture of the Great Plains for over 80 years. The bucolic setting in which he was surrounded has a clear influence on his outlook, in regards to his collection Valentines, a reviewer wrote, “Love isn’t just a feeling, it’s the way this poet views the world” (Lund). It is clear in other works besides Valentines that Kooser has an uncommon and appreciative world view. He sees the beauty in the simplicity of life on a farm - a simplicity mirrored by the diction of his poems: “His style is...

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