Presidential Professor's Profile Image
Presidential Professor


B.S. (1962), Iowa State University

M.A. (1968), University of Nebraska

Areas of Specialty


Personal Essays


Professional Information

In 2006 I completed my second and final term as U. S. Poet Laureate and since then have continued to spend much of my time as a public spokesperson for poetry. I am currently a Presidential Professor at The University of Nebraska, teaching the writing of poetry.

My poetry has been collected in a number of full-length volumes and special editions and has appeared in many literary periodicals. A number of my poems appear in textbooks and anthologies currently in use in secondary school and college classrooms.

I am the editor of a weekly newspaper column, “American Life in Poetry,” which is carried in over 150 newspapers and is available online at It is jointly sponsored by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln English Department, The Library of Congress and the Poetry Foundation. Distribution of the column has continued to grow despite the problems in the newspaper industry and many readers now receive it via email. It, too, is being used in classrooms. The column has an estimated circulation of three and a half million readers around the world.

In the past few years I have enjoyed writing for children, and those books are listed below.

Literary Biography: The Poetry and Life of Ted Kooser, by Mary K Stillwell; University of Nebraska Press, 2013

Biographical Data

Born April 25, 1939, in Ames, Iowa. Attended Ames Public Schools, Iowa State University (B.S. 1962), and the University of Nebraska (MA 1968). Worked for many years as a life insurance executive; now retired and teaching half time at The University of Nebraska. Married to Kathleen Rutledge, retired editor of The Lincoln Journal Star. One son, Jeff, and two granddaughters, Margaret and Penelope.

Published Books


Official Entry Blank, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1969

A Local Habitation & A Name, Solo Press, San Luis Obispo, 1974

Not Coming to be Barked At, Pentagram Press, Milwaukee, 1976

Sure Signs, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980

One World at a Time, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1985

The Blizzard Voices, Bieler Press, St. Paul, 1986. Reprinted in 2006 by University of Nebraska Press

Weather Central, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994

Winter Morning Walks; 100 Postcards to Jim Harrison,  Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2000

Braided Creek, with Jim Harrison. Copper Canyon Press, 2003

Delights and Shadows. Copper Canyon Press, 2004

Flying at Night, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005

Valentines, University of Nebraska Press, 2007

Splitting an Order, Copper Canyon Press, 2014


Local Wonders; Seasons in the Bohemian Alps.  University of Nebraska Press, 2002

The Poetry Home Repair Manual, University of Nebraska Press, 2005

Writing  Brave and Free; Encouraging Words for People Who Want to Start Writing (with Steve Cox), University of Nebraska Press, 2006

Lights on a Ground of Darkness, University of Nebraska Press, 2009

The Wheeling Year; A Poet's Field Book, University of Nebraska Press, 2014

Children’s Books

Bag in the Wind, Candlewick Press, 2010

House Held Up by Trees, Candlewick Press, 2012

The Bell in the Bridge, Candlewick Press, forthcoming in 2015

Chapbooks and Special Editions

Grass County, privately printed, 1971

Twenty Poems, Best Cellar Press, Crete, NE, 1973

Shooting a Farmhouse/So This is Nebraska, Ally Press, St. Paul, 1975

Hatcher, Windflower Press, 1976

Voyages to the Inland Sea, with Harley Elliott, Center for Contemporary Poetry, LaCrosse,  WI, 1976

Old Marriage and New, Cold Mountain Press, Austin, TX, 1978

Cottonwood County, with William Kloefkorn, Windflower Press, 1979

Etudes, Bits Press, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, 1992

A Book of Things, Lyra Press, Lincoln, 1995

A Decade of Ted Kooser Valentines, Penumbra Press, Omaha, 1996

Lights on a Ground of Darkness, University of Nebraska Press, 2005. (Limited clothbound edition, numbered and signed, and given to friends of the university.)

Out of the Moment, Brooding Heron Press, Waldron Island, WA, 2006

Together, Brooding Heron Press, Waldron Island, WA, 2012

Pursuing Blackhawk, Cedar Creek Press, 2013

Books Edited

The Windflower Home Almanac of Poetry, Windflower Press, 1980

The Poets Book of Birds, with Judith Kitchen, Anhinga Press, 2009

Awards and Honors

Prairie Schooner Prize in Poetry, 1976 and 1978
Writing Fellowships, National Endowment for the Arts, 1976 and 1984
Society of Midland Authors Poetry Prize, 1980
Stanley Kunitz Poetry Prize, Columbia Magazine, 1984
Pushcart Prize, 1984
Governor's Art Award, 1988
Mayor's Art Award, 1989
Richard Hugo Prize, Poetry Northwest, 1994
James Boatwright Award, Shenandoah, 2000
Nebraska Arts Council Merit Award in Poetry, 2000
Mari Sandoz Award, Nebraska Library Association, 2000
Nebraska Book Award for poetry, 2001
Barnes & Noble Discover Nonfiction Prize, third place, 2003
Friends of American Writers Prize, 2003
Honorable Mention, Society of Midland Authors nonfiction prize, 2003
First place, ForeWord Magazine autobiographical writing competition, 2003
The Best American Poetry, 2003
Nebraska Book Award for nonfiction, 2003
Society of Midland Authors Poetry Prize (with Jim Harrison, 2004)
Named United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, 2004
Honorary Doctorate, University of Nebraska, 2004
Delights & Shadows named as a “Best Book of the Year” for 2004
Reappointed U. S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. 2005
Honorary Doctorate, South Dakota State University, 2005
American Library Association Notable Book Citation for Delights & Shadows, 2005
Milton Kessler Award, State University of New York at Binghamton, 2005
The Best American Essays, 2005
Society of Midland Authors Poetry Prize, 2005
Pushcart Prize, 2005
Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, 2005
Midwest Booksellers Association Poetry Award. 2005
Sower Award, Lincoln Community Foundation, 2005
Jason Award, Children’s Square, 2005
University of Nebraska Presidential Professorship 2005
Sower Award, Lincoln Community Foundation, 2005
Sower Award, Nebraska Committee on the Humanities, 2006
Sower Award, Nebraskaland Foundation, 2006
University of Nebraska Presidential Professorship 2006
Chosen to be on the three-person jury for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, 2006
Honorary Membership, Sigma Tau Delta, 2007
Distinguished Alumnus, Iowa State University, 2007
Alumni Achievement Award, University of Nebraska, 2007
Midwest Booksellers Association Poetry Award. 2007
University of Nebraska Presidential Professorship 2007
Honorary Doctorate, State University of New York at Binghamton, 2008
Midwest Booksellers Association Poetry Award. 2008
Word Sender Award, John G. Neihardt Foundation, 2008
Honorary Doctorate, Doane College, 2009
Pushcart Prize, 2009
Dedication of Ted Kooser Elementary School, 2009
Mildred Bennett Award, Nebraska Center for the Book, 2009
Hall Kenyon Award in American Poetry, 2010
Local Wonders; Seasons in the Bohemian Alps, chosen as the “One Book, One Nebraska title for 2011
Chosen to be on the three-person jury for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry
Teachers Choice Award – International Reading Association, 2011
Pushcart Prize, 2012
Honorary board of directors, The Poetry Center, Passaic, NJ, 2012
New York Times Best Illustrated Book, for House Held Up By Trees, 2012
Mark Twain Award from The Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature, 2013
House Held Up by Trees named a Best Children’s Book of the Year for 2013 by the Children’s Book Committee 
House Held Up by Trees named (NCTE) Children’s Literature Assembly’s 2013 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts
Nebraska Book Award for children's books for House Held Up by Trees, 2013
Independent Publisher's Gold Medal Award for The Wheeling Year, 2015
Midwest Booksellers Choice Award in Poetry, 2015, for Splitting an Order
Finalist (one of three, no winners chosen), High Plains Book Award in poetry, 2015, for Splitting an Order
Nebraska Book Award for The Wheeling Year, 2015.