By Kayliegh Sughroue

Students in ENG 442 are sharing their reading responses to the Major Nebraska Writers we have encountered this Fall. Kayliegh‘s post was inspired by her reading of the poetry of Ted Kooser.

Over the past semester in our class, we have talked in great detail about the theme of home and what makes a major writer. I think that Ted Kooser is the perfect blend of both of these things. Through his writing, he is able to invoke a feeling of homesickness even if you have never been to the place that he is describing. He also uses the things in his life for inspiration whether it be the death of his parents, things that he did as a child, or just simple things that he’s seen in his everyday life he’ll turn it into a beautiful and compelling poem.

While he is very good at this it isn’t his only feature. He is able to take mundane things and describe them in a way that makes them beautiful. Like in his poem “Old Lilacs”

Old Lilacs

Through early April cold, 
these thin gray horses 
have come near the house 
as to a fence, and lean there 
hungry for summer, 
nodding their heads
with a nickering of twigs. 

Their long legs are dusty 
from standing for months
in winter’s stall, and their eyes 
are like a cloudy sky 
seen through bare branches.

They are waiting for May 
to come up from the barn 
with her overalls pockets 
stuffed with the fodder
of green. In a month 
they will be slow and heavy, 
their little snorts so sweet 
you’ll want to stand 
among them, breathing.

Through his use of metaphor, he can transform his subjects into something completely different like he did with comparing an old lilac bush to horses in the winter. In his poem “Mother” he describes a storm as a shaggy beast dragging its belly along the ground. It sounds absurd when you talk about it out of context, but when you read it, it works so well and it turns into something beautiful and striking. He does this in almost all of his poems and while you would think it wouldn’t work with his simple language, it works so well that it’s hard to replicate. This is just one of the things that makes him a major writer.

Another thing that makes him a major writer is the fact that he has taken the most difficult part of literature and turned it into something that everyone can enjoy, not just literary scholars. What I mean is if you ask most people they’ll tell you that they dislike poetry because they don’t understand it and it confuses them. I’m sure that if they were to read a Kooser poem they wouldn’t have this problem nearly as often. He uses the language that everyone else does and while his metaphors are a little wild they don’t confuse the reader. They leave impactful images that last in your mind’s eye.

It’s a combination of all these things that makes Kooser the best example of a home-based major writer and I wish that there were more writers out there like him.


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