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Ted Kooser Shares the Poetry of Valentine's Day

Poet Ted Kooser
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Poet Ted Kooser

Around this time of year, for more than 20 years, women around the country have checked their mail and found a postcard bearing a red heart in the corner and a poem: a valentine from Ted Kooser, who was U.S. poet laureate from 2004 to 2006.

Now, he has collected those poems in a book called Valentines.

Kooser says a friend who sent handmade valentines out each year inspired the project. The first poem in the book, "Pocket Poem" from 1986, is the first one he sent out — to about 50 women.

/ University of Nebraska Press
University of Nebraska Press

The poems range from the clearly romantic gestures of "Pocket Poem" to more obliquely "romantic" poems such as "A New Potato."

Over the years at public appearances, Kooser would request women add their names and addresses to his list, which grew to number 2,700 in 2007. He spent almost $1,000 in postage and printing that year. That's when he decided he would "rein it in" and stop writing and sending Valentine's Day poems, at least for now.

Kooser notes that his wife, Kathleen, was very patient with his project, adding that he has "special valentines" for her.

Valentine's Day is a great holiday for the poet, Kooser says.

"It's not tied up with anything other than expressions of sentiment," he says.

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As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.