A fellow who follows in the Wallace Stevens tradition of supporting a poetry career with insurance work, Ted Kooser is the first US Poet Laureate from the Great Plains. You can hear the direct voice that drives all his poetry and his prose in an NPR interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Aire:
If poetry is not your favorite kind of reading, Kooser’s work can change your mind. Being accessible is more important than being complex to Kooser, who explains that many poets try to write poems that will draw the attention of poetry critics. How else to get reviewed, lift your career? Kooser admits what most poets know: Writing poetry, although essential to lifting up the language, won’t support a poet. Something like an insurance job or a teaching position is necessary.
A direct poem about a barnyard scene, no matter how beautiful, won’t rise to the top of the critics’ list. But Kooser won last year’s Pulitzer Prize for Delights and Shadows. Complexity captivates critics, but direct language compels readers.