Former U.S. Poet Laureate and UNL Professor of English Ted Kooser has shared his life through poetry for decades. Now, one of his compilations is tied eponymously and conceptually with an album that boasts three Grammy wins.
Kooser published “Winter Morning Walks, 100 Postcards to Jim Harrison” in 2000. He wrote many of the poems in the volume while taking his pre-dawn walks during his recovery from cancer.
The compilation found its way into the hands of musician and composer Maria Schneider, a fellow cancer survivor, and Kooser’s words inspired Schneider – previously more known for her work in jazz – to make her first foray into composing and recording classical music. Schneider explained that Kooser’s poems “feel like home” to her because of her Minnesotan roots.
“There’s nothing to explain about this music, except to say it was very hard to pick which poems from Ted Kooser’s Winter Morning Walks I would choose,” Schneider wrote in the liner notes of the album.
The album, which shares its title with Kooser’s book, won three Grammy awards Sunday: Best Classical Vocal Solo for “Winter Morning Walks,” featuring Dawn Upshaw; Best Contemporary Classical Composition; and Best Engineered Album, Classical.
Kooser is Presidential Professor of English at UNL. He was U.S. Poet Laureate from 2004-2006, and his book “Delights & Shadows” won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. His writing is known for its clarity, precision and accessibility.
Schneider has said that hearing Kooser’s approval of her album was all the praise she needed; however, Kooser gives the credit to Schneider.
“I’m very grateful for having written a few poems that a very talented composer happened upon, and liked, and decided to do something with,” Kooser said. “And I’m immensely happy for her success.”