“Most of us would prefer to look at cartoons in a magazine than read a poem," says Kooser. Poetry reflects life in a way that even big movies, cannot do. Kooser’s poems invite the reader to reflect on everyday items and to notice the small details and beauties of the world. He has a talent to express emotions in a way that the readers themselves will experience. He has been referred to as the master of the short metaphorical poem (Gioia). Kooser has lived in Iowa and Nebraska all of his life. His decision to remain in the Midwest has resulted in a limited audience for his work, but Gioia concludes by observing that Kooser “has written more perfect poems than any poet of his generation” (Gioia). “Kooser wants a poetry anyone can read without shame and understand without labor, because he thinks poetry has too long been in the hands of poets who go out of their way to make their poems difficult if not downright discouraging” (Logan). Although many authors poetry is extremely hard to understand, Ted Kooser’s well-constructed poetic language and simple eloquent style, conveys a heartfelt message toward subjects like loved ones, everyday items, and rural America that are effortless to comprehend throughout his poetry as a result of his tone, imagery, personification, and the uncomplicated metaphors.
Kooser has always been identified primarily as a poet. “While I was at work, I did everything that was required of me and kept getting promoted. But never did I aspire to be anything in the life insurance business” (Kooser). Kooser’s poems are typically brief, metaphors of ordinary people, items and everyday moments in life. Kooser was the winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He was named the first U.S. Poet Laureate from the Great Plains in August 2004 and was reappointed for another year. After receiving a call asking him to accept the U.S. Poet Laureate, Kooser admitted to the Lincoln Journal Star, “Never in my remotest imagination did [I believe] that something like this would happen to me.” Kooser was so excited by the news that as he backed out of his driveway he wasn’t paying attention and he knocked the side mirror off his pickup truck (Cryer).
Ted Kooser was born in Iowa in 1939 and now lives in a rural area of Nebraska. After flunking some of his courses in college, he took a management trainee job with an insurance company. He became the vice president of Bankers Life Insurance. At times he would show his secretary his poems. He would revise them when she didn’t understand them. Kooser said, "I never want to be thought of as pandering to a broad audience, but you can tweak a poem just slightly and broaden the audience very much. If you have a literary allusion, you limit the audience. Every choice requires a cost-benefit analysis." He felt that the structure of the insurance business actually stimulated his writing. He always would get up early in the morning and write for one and a half hours before work. Kooser would work so hard at making his poems clear that sometimes he would go through forty to fifty drafts (Lund).
In 1986 Kooser began sending postcards to about fifty female friends for valentines. Every year Kooser’s fame and audience grew. His mailing list grew as more fans asked to join. By 2007, his postcard list was 2,600. “In other words, don't think of "Valentines" as expensive red roses. This is a box of mixed chocolates, some of which are completely satisfying, while others boast just a sweet center” (Lund). Although some of Kooser’s valentines may not suit every lover of poetry’s taste, he has startling varieties of ways to use vocabulary for romance, love and affection. “This Paper Boat,” is one of the many valentine poems.
This Paper Boat
Carefully placed upon the future, it tips from the breeze and skims away, frail thing of words, this valentine, so far to sail.
And if you find it caught in the reeds, its message blurred,