Ted Kooser reads his poem "Success" at the Dodge Poetry Festival in this video segment from Poetry Everywhere. Kooser is known for chronicling small changes in everyday environments, especially in Nebraska. For decades he woke at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. every day to write for a couple of hours before going to his insurance job. He believes that simply making time for writing gives him the opportunity to create good work. This poem relates to his personal experience of suddenly becoming well known.
For a biography of poet Ted Kooser, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.
Ted Kooser wrote “Success” following his appointment as Poet Laureate and winning the Pulitzer Prize. A fairly introverted man, he wanted to answer those friends who wondered how he was dealing with success and this major life change.
He chooses to describe physical metaphors, smells, and potential outcomes in his body. Success has changed the way he experiences the world and moves through it. Emily Dickinson began a poem with “Success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed.” Kooser, in contrast, appears to welcome and enjoy applause and attention the way one might enjoy rich food. He savors it and wants every last drop, but imagines it attaching to his arteries and possibly damaging him. In the end, though, he wants to cover himself with “the ripening odor of praise,” and attract the attention of women.
Read a biography of the poet Ted Kooser at the Poetry Foundation Web site.
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