National poet laureate to speak at Great Plains Writers’ Conference

Denise Watt

Denise Watt

Next week, those attending the Great Plains Writers’ Conference will have the chance to meet the current national poet laureate.

The 30th annual conference will feature Ted Kooser, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in poetry.

Kooser, of Nebraska, was one of the first writers involved with the conference, said Charles Woodard, English professor and conference coordinator.

“He was featured at SDSU long before he got such widespread recognition,” Woodard said.

The conference will take place March 27 in The Union. The event’s theme combines poetry and painting.

Woodard called the conference a good opportunity to hear a well-known writer.

“Kooser is all about wanting to give helpful, practical advice to anyone who is interested in writing,” he said.

Kooser said, “The Great Plains Writers’ Conference has been one of the best ones in the country since its inception, and while I haven’t been able to be there every year, I have always paid attention to what was going on.

“As poet laureate, I don’t feel any different about attending than I did as a lesser-known writer.”

Kooser worked in the insurance business for more than 30 years in order to devote his free time to writing. He now works as a professor.

As poet laureate, Kooser lectures, writes and promotes poetry. He has been called the first national poet laureate from the Great Plains region since the laureateship’s inception in 1937.

Other presenters at this year’s conference include David Allan Evans, South Dakota poet laureate; Nance and Joe Paddock, Minnesota poets and oral historians; Darla Bielfeldt, a South Dakota poet and musician; and Gary Steinley, a South Dakota painter.

Steinley, a first-time conference presenter, said the interaction between poetry and painting has been taking place for centuries.

“To me, the connections (between literature and the visual arts) are rich and sometimes profound, especially as they lead to understanding and/or experiencing things in different ways,” he said.

The conference begins at 9 a.m., with three different workshops. A session at 10 a.m. will feature poetry and painting. Group and one-on-one discussions will take place at 11 a.m.

The afternoon will feature poetry reading at 1 p.m., a poetry panel at 2 p.m. and Oakwood readings at 3 p.m. The Bamboo Orchestra of Japan will perform at 7:30 p.m., and Kooser will read at at 8 p.m.