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A Lucky Thirteenth

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has announced the appointment of Ted Kooser to be the 13th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. He succeeds Louise Glück.

Ted Kooser, 13th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry 2004-2005 Billy Collins. 11th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry 2001-2003

Kooser will take up his duties in the fall, opening the Library's annual literary series on Oct. 7 with a reading of his work. Kooser will also be a featured speaker at the Library of Congress National Book Festival Poetry Pavilion on Saturday, Oct. 9, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

On making the appointment, 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."

The author of 10 collections of poetry, most recently "Delights & Shadows" (2004), 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.

Kooser's other collections of poetry include "Sure Signs" (1980), which received the Society of Midland Authors Prize for the best book of poetry by a Midwestern writer published in that year; "One World at a Time" (1985); "Weather Central" (1994); and "Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison" (2000), winner of the 2001 Nebraska Book Award for Poetry. A book of his essays, "Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps" (2002), won the Nebraska Book Award for Nonfiction in 2003. The book was also chosen as the Best Book Written by a Midwestern Writer for 2002 by Friends of American Writers, and it won the Gold Award for Autobiography in ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Awards.

Kooser is also the author, with his longtime friend Jim Harrison, of "Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry" (2003), for which the two poets received the 2003 Award for Poetry from the Society of Midland Authors.

Among Kooser's other awards and honors are 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. He is a visiting professor in the English department of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

An informative background of the laureateship is available in the official announcement.

The poetry and literature reading series at the Library of Congress is the oldest in the Washington area and among the oldest in the United States. This annual series of public poetry and fiction readings, lectures, symposia and occasional dramatic performances began in the 1940s and has been almost exclusively supported since 1951 by a gift from the late Gertrude Clarke Whittall, who wanted to bring the appreciation of good literature to a larger audience. The Library's Poetry and Literature Center administers the series.

If you enjoy poetry, don't miss Poetry 180, a Web site developed by former Poet Laureate Billy Collins. Poetry 180 offers a poem for each of the 180 school days. But even if you aren't a student, this diverse selection of poems will entertain as well as educate you about the world we live in.

The Library sponsors many free poetry events; some of them have been recorded and are available as Webcasts on CyberLC, a gateway page. Langston Hughes was the subject of one such event. Several poetry readings by Billy Collins and another former Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky, may interest you as well.


A. Ted Kooser, 13th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry 2004-2005. Photo by Kathleen Rutledge. Not available for reproduction.

B. Billy Collins. 11th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry 2001-2003. Photo by Michaela McNichol. Not available for reproduction.

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