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 twelve 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.
On August 12, 2004, he was named Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry by the Librarian of Congress to serve a term from October 2004 through May 2005. In April 2005, Ted Kooser was appointed to serve a second term as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. During that same week Kooser received the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his book "Delights and Shadows" (Copper Canyon Press, 2004).
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 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).
He hosts the newspaper project "American Life in Poetry."