Born in Ames, Iowa, in 1939, Kooser earned a BS at Iowa State University in 1962 and the MA at the University of Nebraska in 1968. He is the author of eleven collections of poetry. He is former vice-president of Lincoln Benefit Life, an insurance company, and lives on land near the village of Garland, Nebraska. He teaches as a Visiting Professor in the English department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is married to Kathleen Rutledge, former editor of the Lincoln Journal Star.
Kooser lives in Garland, Nebraska, and much of his work focuses on the Great Plains. Like Wallace Stevens, Kooser spent much of his working years as an executive in the insurance industry, although Kooser sardonically noted in an interview with the Washington Post that Stevens had far more time to write at work than he ever did. Kooser graduated from Iowa State University in 1962 and received a master's degree from the University of Nebraska in 1968. Kooser has won two NEA Literary Fellowships (in 1976 and 1984), the Pushcart Prize, the Nebraska Book Awards for Poetry (2001) and Nonfiction (2004), the Stanley Kunitz Prize (1984), the James Boatwright Prize, and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (2005).
"I would like to show average people, with a high school education or just a couple years of college, that they can understand poems. They are not to be afraid or feel they are being tricked by them. I'm trying to do that by example."