(5) Nebraska Literary Giants Subjects

Walking With a Dream: John Neihardt's Preparation for Black Elk Speaks

by Timothy G. Anderson

John G. Neihardt and Nicholas Black Elk hit it off the first time they met. In a sense, both men had long been preparing for this meeting. Black Elk knew white storytellers from traveling with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and Neihardt had spent years interviewing elderly Omaha tribal members near Bancroft, Nebraska. This allowed them to forge a bond that produced a 20th Century religious classic.


John & Mona Neihardt

by Brad Kellogg by Raija Weiershauser

Sit down with John & Mona Neihardt, as he writes at his typewriter and she works on a sculpture.  Listen in as they reminisce about their lives together, including their long distance courtship as Mona studied under Rodin in Paris and John’s travels to South Dakota to meet Black Elk.

A Perfect Understanding: The Romance of John and Mona Neihardt

by Timothy G. Anderson

John G. Neihardt, Nebraska’s poet laureate, proposed to Mona Martinsen—and she accepted—before they had set eyes on one another. He was a poet and author, and she was a sculptor, and together they built a life based on something they called the “higher values” of art and beauty. Though to a large extent she set aside her own art for the sake of her husband’s, Mona was integral to his work, advising him and contributing to a life that made his work possible.


Lonesome Dreamer: The Life of John G. Neihardt

by Timothy G. Anderson

This program, which draws on Anderson’s 2016 biography of John G. Neihardt, examines the life of Nebraska’s poet laureate. Beginning with his birth in 1881 and highlighting the 30 years he lived in Nebraska, Neihardt’s life story covers the triumphs and disappointments he experienced in a publishing career of more than 70 years and the personal life that he enjoyed with his wife and four children.


Getting to Know Weldon Kees Through His Songs and Lyrics

by Helen Waring Johnson

Beatrice Nebraska native Weldon Kees, known primarily for his dark poetry, was also one of the mid-century’s most versatile and artistic personalities–an abstract expressionist artist, photographer, accomplished pianist and  composer-lyricist of popular songs. Singer-Songwriter Waring Johnson discusses Kees and performs from this little known repertoire focusing on Kees’ witty, intelligent lyrics of songs written in collaboration with San Francisco clarinetist Bob Helm.

Neihardt – Nebraska’s Poet Laureate and So Much More

by Nancy Gillis

This program gives an in depth look at Neihardt’s  biography, including the variations of his long writing career, family background, marriage, as well as a brief biography of his wife, the artist Mona Martinson.

The Legacy of Neihardt and Black Elk

by Nancy Gillis

This presentation explores the remarkable legacy of a unique personal and spiritual friendship begun in 1931 between the Lakota holy man Black Elk and poet John G. Neihardt. It includes brief biographies of each man, their meetings, and its impact on adding to the knowledge of Lakota culture, Native American philosophies, and the possibilities of cross-cultural recognition and respect.

O Pioneers! -- Willa Cather’s Second “First Novel”

by Andrew Jewell

Andy Jewell, editor of the Willa Cather Archive (cather.unl.edu) and co-editor of the new Selected Letters of Willa Cather, will discuss the story behind the writing and publishing of O Pioneers!, the 2013 “One Book, One Nebraska” selection that is also celebrating its 100th anniversary. The book, which Cather called her second “first novel,” emerged at a critical period in Cather’s life. In 1912, she had just left her job at McClure’s Magazine and ventured to Arizona to visit her brother. Her experiences there–and the confidence she regained–made her feel that her “mind had been freshly washed and ironed, and were ready for a new life.” With O Pioneers! she attempted a new kind of writing, something far afield from the Boston and London environs of her first novel, Alexander’s Bridge. With this new style, as she told her friend, she “hit the home pasture.” Jewell’s talk will draw heavily on Cather’s biography and, especially, her letters of the period to provide a behind-the-scenes look into the creation of O Pioneers!

Wright Morris: Small Town Life through the Eyes of a Nebraska Writer

by Nancy B. Johnson

Wright Morris often questions if the images of his boyhood as they appear in his works are real or imaginary. Many of the real images he writes about can be seen in early 20th-century photographs of Central City, Nebraska. In this presentation, these photos and more recent photos of artifacts described by Morris are paired with narrative passages from his works. Johnson uses images and words to create a picture of small-town Nebraska life as experienced by the writer.

Willa Cather in the Digital Age

by Andrew Jewell

Using the Willa Cather Archive (http://cather.unl.edu) as an example, this presentation looks at how the digital medium is enabling new ways to explore and learn about the humanities. In addition to unprecedented access to materials, the online environment offers fresh ways of visualizing, publishing, and generally communicating and learning about the humanities.

Willa Cather’s My Ántonia: The Story Behind Its Writing and Publication

by Andrew Jewell

Drawing on biography, history, photographs, interviews, and archival materials, this presentation tells the story of the creation of Willa Cather’s great novel “My Antonia”, a book with a long foreground in the author’s life, and, as recently-discovered letters illustrate, one that marked daring new ambitions and achievements in her career.

Willa Cather’s Life in Letters

by Andrew Jewell

Drawing on Jewell’s experience co-editing the first book of Cather’s letters, this talk explores the way Cather used letters to communicate her ideas, maintain her relationships, and think through her life and experiences. Cather’s letters are being published for the first time in 2013, and this program features readings from the lively, but largely unread correspondence of the great American author.


My Two Friends: Mari Sandoz and John G. Neihardt

by Ron Hull

John Neihardt, Mari Sandoz and Ron Hull produced many hours of television programs during the 1960s and ’70s. The substance of these planning sessions provides anecdotes and stories about their lives and work. Sandoz and Neihardt were friends, and their approach to their art and the methods they used were vastly different. The examples given are corroborated in Helen Stauffer’s “Mari Sandoz: Story of the Plains and Letters of Mari Sandoz.”

Mari Sandoz: A Personal Reminiscence

by Ron Hull

Mari Sandoz and Ron Hull became friends in 1956 and their friendship lasted through their final visit in New York City just before her death in 1966. During these years Sandoz and Hull created 18 half-hour television programs. This presentation is based on those conversations about her approach to creative writing, which she reveals a great deal about herself, her career and her life.

Nebraska through Song and Story

by Dan Holtz

Nebraska has not only a rich tradition in literature but also a rich, less-publicized tradition in music. This program interweaves songs, accompanied on guitar and harmonica, with excerpts from works by Willa Cather, John Neihardt, Mari Sandoz and Bess Streeter Aldrich. In a narrative from about 1850 to 1904, it tells the stories of the people who came to and through early Nebraska, the pioneers who crossed the overland trails, the settlers and the Native Americans. This program can be tailored for either a young audience or an adult audience.

Willa Cather and Quilts

by Evelyn Haller Harris

Willa Cather’s earliest memory of art was sitting under quilting frames as a child. This early experience of art as craft — listening to stories and looking at thoughtfully arranged materials of everyday life — remained with Cather. Throughout her life Cather chose to work in places that recalled the small space under the quilting frame, including the attic room in her Red Cloud home, the attic sewing room Isabelle McClung prepared for her in Pittsburgh and the tent where she wrote in Grand Manaan. Slides illustrate quilts Cather names in her fiction as well as related Cather sites and materials.

The Conversation Through Time: An Introduction to Poetry of Nebraska

by Mary K. Stillwell

When Ted Kooser was named poet laureate, we were reminded that Nebraska offers a well-stocked literary breadbasket, heaped with books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction.  Mary K. Stillwell focuses on our state’s rich heritage in song and poetry, from Pawnee times to present-day writers who continue the conversation about who we were and who we are into our time.

Bright Leaves Flying: An Introduction to U.S. Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser

by Mary K. Stillwell

Nebraska resident Ted Kooser made headlines when he was named U.S. Poet Laureate in 2004. He served from 2004-2006.  Stillwell places Kooser within the rich tradition of Nebraska poetry and provides an introduction to the poet and his work.  Kooser, born in Ames, Iowa, moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, to study with Karl Shapiro at the University of Nebraska in 1963, and has made his home in the state ever since.  Stillwell will talk about his life and how it influenced his work.  The talk can be tailored to the specific wishes of the audience.

Introduction to Nebraska Authors

by Laureen Riedesel

This program consists of readings from six Nebraska authors, with a short biography of each author and an introduction to each piece. Readings and authors include Mari Sandoz’s “Winter Thunder,” Willa Cather’s “My Antonia,” Wright Morris’ “Will’s Boy,” John G. Neihardt’s “All Is But a Beginning,” Bess Streeter Aldrich’s “A White Bird Flying” and Loren Eiseley’s “All the Strange Hours.”