Friday, June 13, 2014

Dear Ted Kooser: I'm Trying

by Susan

Ted Kooser is my hero: Past National Poet Laureate, brilliant writer, funny, an amazing teacher and just a genuinely good man.

That's not why he's my hero (although it doesn't hurt.) He's my hero because for decades he got up at 4 a.m. every morning and wrote poetry before he went to his job at an insurance firm.

4 a.m. Ouch.

Still it gives me hope. Maybe I can do this. I wake up at 5 a.m. most days; how much harder could 4 a.m. be? So for two days I've set the sunrise lamp for an hour of the morning that my husband refers to as "the middle of the night" to try to make some writing time.

Two days in, it's harder than I thought.

First night, didn't sleep well and set the lamp incorrectly so it didn't go off. Didn't even make 5 a.m. Survived the day on abusive doses of coffee -- think "IV drip" level consumption.

Ah, but last night I was ready for rock-solid sleep and an early start to the writing. Not only was I tuckered out, but I worked a gentle 8-mile bike ride into my evening.

Unfortunately, the husband started turning over on a regular basis with remarkable vigor and vehemence. Then there were the sound effects -- "Mmmph! Mmmph!" -- as if he were moving a boulder and not merely snatching half my side of the quilt.

I pulled it back gently at first, not wanting to wake him, then with more force until by the fourth or fifth time I was ripping it back violently. He finally woke up with a "Wha?"

Just stop, I told him. Stop. He went to sleep out on the couch out of either consideration or fear.

The lamp dawned slowly at 4 a.m. I turned it off. I'm sorry, Ted. I'll keep trying.

When do you find time for your writing, and how do you carve it out of your day?


  1. Susan, I remember Kooser telling us at the WWI conference in Casper in 2009 how he got up that early each morning to write poetry until about 7 when he put on his suit and tie and went off to work. What wonderful, insightful, human, inspirational talks he gave.

    I am reminded of Mary Oliver who also got up early and went walking in the woods around Province Town to watch the sunlight gathering in the pines or on the surface of a pond or to catch some deer coming home to its bed.

    Kooser is one of my heroes too. I love his ability to craft metaphor. I have trouble doing it except on rare occasions and then am stunned that I've done it. If you want to see some fine poetry he composed on early morning walks while recovering from cancer surgery, read Winter Morning Walks.

    He composed one a day and sent them on postcards to Jim Harrison. He later collected the best in Winter Morning Walks. Beautiful images in those poems that have inspired me to be alert for similar ones.

    Kooser and Oliver got up in the dark to work on their poetry. I mostly just stagger around in the dark.

    Love the T. Where did you get it?

    1. I haven't read that one of his, Art. Thanks for the recommendation -- will have to put it on my list.

      The University of Nebraska Press used to sell the Ted Head t-shirts, but unfortunately they are no longer available.

      I really am a morning person and think most clearly early on, so I need to keep trying. For a while there, I was waking up naturally at 4 and going out to my cabin to read and write. It was a great time of day to be free of distractions. I just got out of the habit.

  2. I also remember Ted Koozer at the WWI conference in Casper. I sat next to him during the book signing, and needless to say, he got more attention.

    1. Your comment made me smile, Abbie. Thanks for sharing. :)


Writing Wyoming blog comments are moderated--yours will be posted shortly. Thanks for joining in the conversation!