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Posts Tagged ‘Willa Cather’


by Willa Cather

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.

___________________________________________

“Prairie Spring” is in the public domain and was released by Poem-A-Day from The American Academy of Poets on December 29th, 3013. Launched during National Poetry Month in 2006, Poem-A-Day features new and previously unpublished poems by contemporary poets on weekdays and classic poems on weekends.


Willa Cather was born on December 7, 1873, in Virginia. She grew up in Nebraska and studied at the University of Nebraska, before moving to Pennsylvania, and then to New York. Cather is best remembered for her novels depicting frontier life on the Great Plains. “Prairie Spring” was first published in 1913 as the prologue to Willa Cather’s novel O Pioneers! Although Cather received widespread recognition as a novelist, her first published book was April Twilights (1903), a collection of poetry. In 1923, Cather was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, One of Ours (1922). Cather died in 1947 in New York City.


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


After our New Year’s book cleaning, I pulled out all of our poetry books and was inspired to read poetry every day. On a frigid winter weekend, when the air temperatures will drop to -27°F in the Twin Cities, it helps to read poems about spring. I felt closest to Willa Cather when I traveled through Nebraska on frequent road trips to New Mexico where she met D. H. Lawrence in 1924. I stayed in the Cather room at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House and wrote about her after one of those trips in Valentine.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, January 5th, 2014

-Related to posts: Discovering The Big Read, Midwest Poets & Writers — When Can You Call A Place Home?, The Vitality Of Place — Preserving The Legacy Of “Home”, The World According To Mr. Schminda (et al.)

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By Teri Blair



The Big Read, all photos © 2010 by Teri Blair, all rights reserved.





Have you heard of The Big Read?


I found out about it completely by accident. I was perusing the CDs at my library, and saw one entitled The Big Read: An Introduction to My Antonia by Willa Cather. I took it home, and was enraptured by the 25-minute program. Ted Kooser talked about the significance of Cather to Nebraska, Garrison Keillor read excerpts from her book, and Colin Powell talked about the immigrant experience. What was this? The Big Read?


The Big Read began in 2006 by the National Endowment for the Arts, and is the largest reading program in American history. Their mission is simple: to restore reading to the center of American culture. Communities all over the country can apply for grants to explore one of the 31 Big Read titles. In addition to reading the book, related events are planned to last approximately one month.







When I plugged my zip code into The Big Read’s website, I was happy to find there was an event within an hour of where I live. On a Saturday in February my friends and I jumped in my Subaru and headed east to the small river town of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. As Thornton Wilder was from the Badger State, this community had chosen Our Town and The Bridge of San Luis Rey. We walked into a packed house at the Scenic Riverway Park building. The local organizers of the program spoke, a representative from the National Endowment talked about what is happening with The Big Read across the country, and we heard from Wisconsin author David Rhodes. He read excerpts from his book Driftless, talked about Thornton Wilder’s writing, and led a group discussion about what Wilder accomplished in his work. At the end of the program, we were all given two new books, a CD audio guide (just like the one I had found at the library), bookmarks, and a reader’s guide.


We were invited to join book discussion groups, and to come back for follow-up events. Wisconsin Public Radio will be performing a reader’s theater, and the local community playhouse will present Our Town.


I love to read, but like most readers, I get worried about the future of books and people to enjoy them. A faster and faster world makes a luxurious afternoon with a good book harder to claim. I am happy to support a program that is doing something tangible…something to bring reading back to the people.


To find out more about The Big Read (and to plug in your own zip code) go to:

http://www.neabigread.org.


Thornton Wilder, David Rhodes, From The Big Read Series, all photos © 2010 by Teri Blair, all rights reserved.




About Teri Blair: Teri Blair is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis and founder of the Poetry & Meditation Group of which QuoinMonkey fondly and frequently writes. (See Letter From Poet Elizabeth Alexander for the latest post on that group and Teri’s piece titled Desire And A Library Card — The Only Tools Necessary To Start A Poetry Group for a step-by-step on how to start your own.)

Teri has written many posts on red Ravine. Her first guest post, Continue Under All Circumstances, was written on the road during a 2007 trip to Holcomb, Kansas. She journeyed back to Holcomb early this year and wrote a follow-up piece published on red Ravine in March, Back To Holcomb, One Last Time.

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Around 3000 people live in the city of Valentine. If you fired up your GPSr, programmed in 42 degrees, 52′, 25″N, and 100 degrees, 33′, 1″W, slid the homing gadget into the plastic grip Velcroed to the dashboard, and drove in the direction of the crosshair blips on your map of light, you’d arrive at the most northern border of Nebraska, smack dab in the center of the state line.

That’s Valentine.

Each year in the month of February, thousands of hopeless romantics send letters to Cupid’s mailbox in “Heart City”to be embossed with one of three different Valentine cachets. Valentine’s Cache, Valentine, Nebraska, from Heart City websiteThe red ink postal stamp from America’s heartland adds a little fuel to the fire of a juicy Valentine’s Day.

If you think Nebraska’s a dull state, reset the synaptic button. Fire again. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet.

Kool-Aid and CliffsNotes and the Vise-Grip were all invented in Nebraska. The largest Powerball payout, $365 million, was split 8 ways on February 6th, 2006 by ConAgra workers from Lincoln. Both Malcolm X and Brandon Teena were born in Nebraska. As were Henry Fonda, Hilary Swank, and Marg Helgenberger, blood spatter expert and forensic supervisor Catherine Willows from the original CSI.

Need I say more?

Okay, let me go on to the 450,000 other reasons I fell in love with Nebraska – the sandhill cranes . Each year in early spring, 90% of the population traverse the Central Flyway stopping to fatten up and rest along the Nebraska stretch of the 310 mile, 10,000 year old Platte River. And they’ve been doing this for 9 million years.

At sunrise, 10 feet from the river bed, in the dark underbelly of a blind near Kearney, I’ve watched as the cranes roost on one foot, sleeping in 6 inches of water. I’ve seen them probe the grasslands, meadows, and farmers’ fields near Grand Island foraging for leftover corn, insects, earthworms, and rodents. I’ve listened from 7 miles away to the ancient and throaty rolling trumpet sweeping toward Rowe Sanctuary, and peered through Nikon binoculars at kettles of cranes staging over Gibbon, their gangly voluminous shadows eclipsing the moon in a single sweep of midnight dusk.

Convinced?

I saved the creme de la creme for last – I love Nebraska for her writers: Ted Kooser , the United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 – 2006, Willa Cather , Terry Goodkind, DeBarra Mayo, John Neihardt, Weldon Kees, Ana Marie Cox , founder of the political blog, Wonkette, and Jonis Agee, Director of the Nebraska Summer Writers’ Conference. Maybe they weren’t all born Cornhuskers. But many lived most of their lives in the great Nebraskan plains.

How long do you have to live somewhere to call it home?

I’m a Minnesota transplant. I moved here in 1984. When people ask me where I’m from, I say, “I’m from Minnesota.” And sometimes, so as not to be pigeonholed, I add the caveat, “But I grew up Down South, lived in central Pennsylvania in my teens, and moved West to Montana in my 20’s. I’ve been around.” Creative license – I have to protect my image as a bohemian.

Willa Cather by Carl van Vechten, photo taken January 22, 1936, released to public domain, Library of Congress

Willa Cather by Carl van Vechten, photo taken January 22, 1936, released to public domain, Library of Congress

On my last road trip through Nebraska, my air conditioning died and I stopped to cool off at a rest stop just north of Red Cloud (the town is named for the great Oglala Lakota chief who was born near there) where Willa Cather grew up. Did I mention she won the Pulitzer in 1923 for One of Ours?

I struck up a conversation with Ella, a gray haired, bespectacled, 70-ish woman in a denim shirt and blue jeans (this is common in the Midwest) standing behind the map counter. I told her I was returning from a writing retreat in Taos and that on my first trip to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in 2001, I stayed in the Cather room where Willa once slept on one of her pilgrimages to New Mexico.

I told her I read that Cather had met D. H. Lawrence in 1924. And wasn’t that the same year he and Frieda visited Mabel and Tony, bunked in the Pink House in Taos, and lived with Dorothy Brett at Kiowa Ranch near San Cristobal? Ella’s eyes sparkled. When she found out I was a writer, she talked to me for nearly 45 minutes, a reprieve from the dog day glare of August, about Nebraska writers and history. Her great, great grandparents homesteaded there. It is in her blood.

Willa Cather once said, “The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman.” Maybe the history of every country can also be traced through the lineage of everyman who lives at the heart of its land.

Kearney, Nebraska marks the exact central point between Boston and San Francisco. Valentine, at the seat of Cherry County, sits dead center in the heart of America. Everything east and west is just an appendage.

Cupid knows. He shoots his letters off straight from Valentine.


-posted on red Ravine Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

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