Archives acquires Kooser's papers

Ted Kooser
Ted Kooser

UNL Libraries has acquired the personal papers of Ted Kooser, award-winning Presidential Professor of English and U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress (2004-06).

Kooser said he is delighted that his papers are staying in Nebraska.

"I know the faculty and staff of the University Archives and I trust them to care for the materials with diligence and sensitivity," he said.

The Kooser Collection contains the manuscripts of Kooser's work, his journals and workbooks dated 1968 to the present, and more than 50 bound volumes of correspondence covering the years 1966 to 2010. Acquisition of the works was made possible with support from the University of Nebraska Foundation.

"It is a great honor for the UNL Libraries to be chosen as the home for the Kooser Collection," said Katherine Walter, chair of the Digital Initiatives and Special Collections Department at the UNL Libraries. "Students in the creative writing and 20th century literature programs at UNL will be able to study the development of Kooser's poetry and other writings over time and to appreciate the correspondence that is so integral to the collection. It is our privilege to preserve his work for future generations."

Tim Jackson, a postdoctoral researcher working in the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, provided assistance in processing the collection for use by students and scholars. He said he has been fascinated by the extensive amount of correspondence that Kooser had with contemporary poets and colleagues including: Dana Gioia poet and former head of the National Endowment for the Arts; Jim Harrison, friend, co-author and critique partner; Bill Kloefkorn (1932-2011), friend and Nebraska state poet laureate of 1982; Karl Shapiro (1913-2000), U.S. poet laureate 1946-47, UNL professor and editor of Prairie Schooner; and William Stafford (1914-93) U.S. poet laureate 1970-71. The correspondence features letters from actress Debra Winger, and more than 25 years of letters with former Nebraska governor and U.S. senator Bob Kerrey.

The collection also includes 40 years of workbooks and journals that contain Kooser's thoughts, drawings, and clippings or items Kooser pasted into the pages.

"Kooser's journals and workbooks provide a personal and intimate look at his life and how the things he came into contact with or experienced may have influenced the creation of his poetry," said Mary Ellen Ducey, university archivist.

Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa, in 1939 and earned his B.S. at Iowa State University in 1962 and his M.A. at UNL in 1968. He is a former vice-president of Lincoln Benefit Life Co. and lives in Garland. Kooser is the author of more than 12 full-length collections of poetry and nonfiction writing. During his second term as U.S. poet laureate, he won the Pulitzer Prize for "Delights & Shadows," a book of poems published by Cooper Canyon Press (2004). Also while serving his term, he started "American Life in Poetry," a weekly column sponsored by the Poetry Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the University of Nebraska. There have been more than 300 columns published with a readership of more than 4 million people.

Kooser's first book of prose, "Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps" (University of Nebraska Press, 2002) won the Nebraska Book Award for Nonfiction in 2003. For more information on Kooser's bibliography and awards visit

The acquisition of the collection will be celebrated with a private event in September. Select materials in his collection will be on display for the public to see in the University Archives and Special Collections Reading Room (29 Love Library) during the hours of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 9.

- Joan Barnes, University Libraries

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