Literary Events in May

The month of May is quickly approaching! That means new and exciting literary events near you.

Check out the NCB calendar on our website to see what events are happening in your area and across the state of Nebraska.

Some events or workshops may require prior registration or charge a fee. The time, date, and location of the events featured on the NCB calendar are subject to change.

Due to COVID-19, some events may be cancelled, postponed, or shifted to an online/virtual formal. In addition, some venues may require you to follow social distancing practices as well as wear a face covering.

Feel free to contact us if you have an event that you would like to be featured on the NCB calendar!

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2021 marks 100 years since John G. Neihardt became Nebraska’s first poet laureate

by Marjie Ducey | Omaha World-Herald

John G. Neihardt didn’t like being called Nebraska’s Homer.

But it was his epic stories of the settling of the American West that resulted in him becoming Nebraska’s first poet laureate, and the first one in the country chosen by legislative action.

Marianne Reynolds, executive director of the poet’s state historic site in Bancroft, Nebraska, said she is swept back to those days every time she enters the center, just as she thought of the “Iliad” and “Odyssey” by Homer during a trip to Greece.

“When I was in Greece, there was nothing like stepping off the airplane into a place where an epic thing happened,” she said. “With Neihardt, and I’m not exaggerating, I can step out of my car into the American epic. We have that because of Neihardt.”

To mark the 100-year anniversary of Neihardt being named poet laureate after the writing of “A Cycle of the West,” the center has several programs planned, starting with an April 24 conference about the poet with author Carson Vaughan as the keynote speaker.

A hike to Black Elk Peak is set for May 30. That’s where Nicholas Black Elk shared his vision with Neihardt, which was the basis of the book “Black Elk Speaks.”

On June 18, a celebration of the public declaration of Neihardt as poet laureate is scheduled. By legislative proclamation, Aug. 1 is designated as Neihardt Day, and several activities are planned at the center.

Reynolds said Neihardt was one of the few people who paid attention to the cost of westward expansion in the U.S.

“He wrote about the Indian wars and the death of Crazy Horse,” she said. “He had this uncanny ability to talk about the settling of the West that is really distinctive.”

Neihardt worked for a short time at the Omaha Daily News — a precursor to the Omaha World-Herald — until being fired in 1902.

“He was just so interested in the story. He would be digging into the story and talking to people, and all the other reporters were out there getting the scoop,” Reynolds said.

He was also an eloquent speaker, and Reynolds said there are still visitors to Bancroft who recall seeing him in person.

He was beloved and respected not just in Nebraska but across the world. More than 1 million copies of “Black Elk Speaks” have been printed in multiple languages.

Reynolds said his writing is stunning.

“Besides being a really good storyteller,” she said, “he was a brilliant writer.”

March 21, 2021, Updated April 8, 2021 |

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Forthcoming book centers Willa Cather’s partnership with Edith Lewis

by Deann Gayman | Nebraska Today

Melissa Homestead’s eagerly anticipated book re-centering Edith Lewis in Willa Cather’s personal and professional life will publish April 1, through the Oxford University Press.

“The Only Wonderful Things: The Creative Partnership of Willa Cather and Edith Lewis” and Homestead’s achievement will be celebrated with a virtual launch event April 1 at 7 p.m., featuring Homestead in conversation with colleague and novelist Timothy Schaffert.

The event, sponsored by the Cather Project and Department of English, will be held over Zoom. It is free for participants, but registration is required.

The conversation will bring the Cather scholar and Cather enthusiast perspectives together. Schaffert, author of “The Swan Gondola” and professor of English, is a native Nebraskan and Cather fan.

“His work is centered on queer themes and he is writing historical fiction right now,” Homestead said. “I think it will be a conversation for people interested in Tim’s fiction and who are also interested in Willa Cather and learning about her life.”

Through meticulous research that depended heavily on previously unpublished documents kept in archives at Nebraska and elsewhere, Homestead, director of the Cather Project and professor of English, has reconstructed the life Cather and Lewis led together — a life previously erased by Cather scholars and her fans.

“A lot of people found it inconvenient, essentially, for Edith Lewis to exist,” Homestead said. “They wanted to — from their perspective — protect Cather’s reputation.”

In the book, Homestead revisits some of their travels, including trips to the Southwest that inspired “The Professor’s House” and “Death to the Archbishop,” and writes about their professional partnership. Readers may be surprised to learn how much Lewis helped shape Cather’s work.

“They were collaborators in the production of Cather’s fiction,” Homestead said. “Cather did the writing in the first instance, but Edith Lewis edited her fiction and that editing often took the form of adding quite substantial language, while canceling Cather’s language. And then she also, I think, helped Cather to produce herself as an author and as a celebrity.”

Homestead also unpacks Cather’s death in 1947 and the effect it had on Lewis, as well as how the Cold War panic over homosexuality led to Lewis being sidelined by Cather scholars.

In addition to the virtual launch, the book will be previewed in a special event at 7 p.m. March 26, featuring a conversation between Homestead and Alex Ross, a writer with The New Yorker. The virtual event is being hosted by and is a fundraiser for the National Willa Cather Center in Red Cloud. There is a registration fee.

March 22, 2021 |

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Kwame Dawes and the Poetry Foundation reintroduce American Life in Poetry

by Editor | Lake County News

Award-winning poet, author, and editor Kwame Dawes, PhD, has published his first weekly column as American Life in Poetry editor, in partnership with the Poetry Foundation and University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and relaunches a new and engaging website to connect people to poetry through interests, geography, and representation.

Dawes carries the column forward after founding editor and curator, Ted Kooser, retired after 15 years as project creator and editor.

The first poem featured is “They Dance Through Granelli’s” by Pat Emile — an homage to the recently retired editorial assistant of the project for 15 years.

Dawes seeks to maintain, and expand the original vision for the column by continuing to reach readers through local news media outlets, as well as subscribers to the newsletter that publishes weekly on Mondays.

“This column is rooted in the everyday, the broad sense of Americanness that eschews elitism and that embraces a democratic sense of lives that make sense to a vast cross section of the population,” Dawes said. “I welcome readers who can engage in a wide section of American life, can find poetry that speaks to various aspects of American existence, and that somehow embraces the full range of this America.”

Along with a completely refreshed visual statement, the website features increased browsing and discovery capabilities, new photography, and an increased social media presence. Front and center allows users the ability to browse past columns by theme and region.

“The site allows for readers to dig deeper into what they may see in the newsletter or on social media,” Dawes said. “We want readers to stay on the site for awhile and get comfortable with poetry, or to find new ways to engage with poems whether that’s through a love of sports or geography.”

Dawes hopes new readers will connect with American Life in Poetry by finding columns that are approachable and speak to their interests, particularly for new poetry readers.

With over 60 different themes that can be combined while searching, users can find a poem that speaks to gardening and unrequited love from the archive which includes more than 800 poems.

Dawes is the author of 22 books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. His collection, “Nebraska” was published in 2020.

He is George W. Holmes University Professor of English, Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and also teaches the Pacific MFA Program.

He is director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival. Dawes is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

His awards include an Emmy, Nation­al Press Club Joan Frieden­berg Award for Online Jour­nal­ism, the For­ward Poet­ry Prize, the Mus­grave Sil­ver Medal for con­tri­bu­tion to the Arts in Jamaica, the Governor’s Award for ser­vice to the arts in South Car­oli­na, a Guggen­heim Fel­low­ship and the Wind­ham Camp­bell Prize for Poet­ry. In 2009 he was induct­ed into the South Car­oli­na Acad­e­my of Authors.

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in American culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs.

March 20, 2021 |

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April Literary Events

April is almost here. A new month brings new opportunities and more literary events!

Check out the NCB calendar to see what events are happening near you and across our state during the upcoming month.

Some of these events or workshops may require registration or charge a fee. The time, date, and location of these events are subject to change. Due to the current pandemic, some may be cancelled, postponed or shift or an online format. In addition, some venues may require face masks and to follow social distancing practices.

Contact us if you have an event that you would like to share on the NCB calendar!

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2021 Nebraska Book Award Submissions Sought

Celebrate Nebraska’s rich literary tradition with the Nebraska Book Awards. The Nebraska Book Awards program, sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book (NCB), recognizes and honors books that are written by Nebraska authors, published by Nebraska publishers, set in Nebraska, or concerning Nebraska. The Awards competition opens every year on March 1st and entries are due by June 30th. Books published in 2020, as indicated by the copyright date, are eligible for nomination. They must be published, have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN), and be bound. Books may be entered in one or more of the following categories: Nonfiction, Fiction, Children/Young Adult, Cover/Design/Illustration, and Poetry. Winners of the 2021 Nebraska Book Awards will be honored at the annual Celebration of Nebraska Books in the fall. The authors, designers and illustrators, and publishers are invited to give a short reading and speak about their winning books. Please visit the NCB website at for more information and to submit your nomination. Submissions can be made on the NCB website or by mail.

The Celebration of Nebraska Books, free and open to the public, will also honor recipients of the 2021 Jane Geske and Mildred Bennett awards. The Mildred Bennett Award recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to fostering the literary tradition in Nebraska, reminding us of the literary and intellectual heritage that enriches our lives and molds our world. The Jane Geske Award is presented to a Nebraska organization for exceptional contribution to literacy, books, reading, libraries, or literature in Nebraska. It commemorates Geske’s passion for books and was established in recognition of her contributions to the well-being of the libraries of Nebraska. Nominations for these awards are accepted year-round at

The Celebration of Nebraska Books is sponsored by Nebraska Center for the Book and the Nebraska Library Commission, with support from Humanities Nebraska, and History Nebraska’s Nebraska History Museum. The Nebraska Center for the Book is housed at the Nebraska Library Commission and brings together the state’s readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, publishers, printers, educators, and scholars to build the community of the book, supporting programs to celebrate and stimulate public interest in books, reading, and the written word. The Nebraska Center for the Book is supported by the national Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the Nebraska Library Commission.

As the state library agency, the Nebraska Library Commission is an advocate for the library and information needs of all Nebraskans. The mission of the Library Commission is statewide promotion, development, and coordination of library and information services, “bringing together people and information.”

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Literary Events in March

March is right around the corner! Check out the NCB calendar to see what literary events are happening near you.

Some of these events or workshops may require registration or charge a fee. The time, date, and location of these events are subject to change. Due to the current pandemic, some may be cancelled, postponed or shift or an online format. In addition, some venues may require face masks and to follow social distancing practices.

If you have an event that you would like to be featured, feel free to contact us!

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February Literary Events

Check out the NCB calendar to see what literary events are happening near you and across the state this month!

Some events or workshops may charge a fee or require prior registration. The time, date, and location of these events are subject to change.

Due to the current pandemic, some events may be cancelled, postponed or shifted to an online format. In addition, some venues may require face masks and to follow social distancing practices.

Please contact us if you have an event that you would like to be shared!

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NCompass Live: 2021 One Book One Nebraska: ‘Prairie Forge’

NOTE! This is a Special Edition of NCompass Live being held at a special time! Next week’s NCompass Live will be held from 1:00pm – 2:00pm Central Time on Wednesday, February 3.

In this seventeenth year of One Book One Nebraska, Nebraska libraries and other literary and cultural organizations continue to plan activities and events to encourage all Nebraskans to read and discuss the same book.

Join us at 1:00 pm CT on Wednesday, February 3 to hear all about this state reading promotion activity, sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book, Humanities Nebraska, and the Nebraska Library Commission.

We are very pleased to announce that the featured guest on this special episode of NCompass Live will be James Kimble, author of the 2021 selection Prairie Forge: The Extraordinary Story of the Nebraska Scrap Metal Drive of World War II (Bison Books, 2014).

  • Learn about how to create a successful local reading promotion using Nebraska’s year-long, statewide celebration featuring Prairie Forge, by James Kimble.
  • Brainstorm strategies to read and discuss Prairie Forge.
  • Find tools to help engage your community in local activities to encourage them to come together through literature to explore this work in community-wide reading programs.
  • Learn about the 2021 Celebration of Nebraska Books, which will celebrate this book, along with the winners of the 2021 Nebraska Book Awards.

Sessions are recorded for anyone who may want to see them again or who cannot attend them at the schedule time. Registration is required to view the archived recordings. Registration for this webinar ends on February 1, 2021. You can sign up for this webinar here.

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Nebraska state poet’s poem gets national attention after Capitol riots

By Libby Seline | Lincoln Journal Star

A poem by Nebraska state poet Matt Mason about political violence found a broad national audience after being published by the New York Times on Sunday — even though it was written three years ago.

At the time he wrote it, Mason said the political climate made him feel uncomfortable because of its aggressive nature. But he filed the poem away until a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol last week and the poem became more relevant. 

“The Start” is about how seemingly small speeches or actions that are fueled by hatred will lead to aggressive behavior, such as riots. Mason repeats the phrase “it probably started” throughout his poem to convey that message.

“It’s seemed like we were going more and more with the (hateful) language and never hitting the point of saying, ‘This is too far,’” he said. “And if that point never gets hit, the violence is inevitable.”

Mason sent the poem to a contact at the New York Times and now it’s been seen thousands of times on the newspaper’s website, according to Mason.

“If I sell 10,000 copies of a book, I’ve done really well,” he said. “They told me mid-afternoon that the link to my poem had been clicked on something, like, 20,000 times. It’s like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’”

He hopes his poem will change people’s minds about the current political climate, referencing people who have excused the actions of those who stormed the Capitol. 

“I think we need people to not just recognize how far things have gone, but change their minds about what they thought about it previously,” he said. 

Mason has been the state poet for two years. In his role, he advocates for local poets and has tried to host a poetry event in each Nebraska county. He also works at the Nebraska Writers Collective and has published three books. 

January 12, 2021 |

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