“Ted Kooser: Fifty Years of Poetry that Matters,” SSML, May 16-18, 2019

deadline for submissions: 
December 15, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Society for the Study of Midwestern Literture (SSML)
contact email: 

“Ted Kooser: Fifty Years of Poetry that Matters”

This panel for the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature's annual conference at Michigan State University from May 16-May 18, 2019, in East Lansing, MI, proposes a career retrospective on Ted Kooser’s significant and continuing contribution to American poetry for fifty years, from his debut Official Entry Blank (University of Nebraska Press, 1969) to his most recent publication, Kindest Regards (Copper Canyon, 2018).  Kooser’s many accolades, including the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Delights & Shadows and his selection as the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2004 – 2006, speak to the quality and depth of his poetry, his wide influence on poets and readers alike, and his conviction that poems improve and enrich people’s lives.  As Kooser recently put it in 2017 interview with Daniel Simon for World Literature Today, “For me, poetry is a way of clarifying and specifying feelings.”  

Discussing Ted Kooser in his 1992 book, Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture, in a chapter titled, “The Anonymity of the Regional Poet,” Dana Gioia claimed, “Kooser has written more perfect poems than any other poet of his generation.”  Writing before the publication of volumes like Winter Morning Walks (2000), Delights & Shadows (2004) and Splitting an Order (2014), Gioia’s evaluation is compelling in its enthusiasm for Kooser’s verse to date and prescient about the quality of the work to come, which would make Kooser among the nation’s most popular and important poets.

In his career, Kooser has espoused and lived the idea that poetry matters.  As U.S. Poet Laureate, Kooser created the American Life in Poetry series, a free weekly column for newspapers featuring a contemporary American poet's poem coupled with Kooser’s introduction. The American Life in Poetry series, in its 705th column at the time of this writing, is a testament to the richness of American poetry and Kooser’s unwavering belief in the value of poems to help people understand their experience.

This panel invites all manner of approaches to Kooser’s poetry. Papers may focus singly on individual volumes of poetry or poems from multiple volumes. 

Please email a 250 word abstract and brief CV to Jeffrey Hotz at jhotz@esu.edu. Any questions can also be directed to the same email address.

The deadline for submissions is December 15, 2018.