Nebraska's State Poet


William Kloefkorn of Lincoln was named Nebraska's first State Poet by proclamation of Gov. Charles Thone on Sept. 11, 1982. The selection process for a state poet involved the Nebraska Committee for the Humanities, the governor and the Executive Board of the Legislative Council, plus at-large group of Nebraska citizens and academic advisers.

Kloefkorn, currently an English professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, has been a faculty member there since 1962. Previously, he served as an English instructor at Wichita State University and taught at Ellinwood (Kan.) High School. He holds undergraduate and master's degrees from Emporia (Kan.) State College and has done additional graduate work at the University of Kansas and the University of Nebraska.

Kloefkorn's works have appeared in numerous periodicals and newspapers, including the Prairie Schooner, Poet and Critic, Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal-Star, Spoon River Quarterly, Poetry Now and Midwest Quarterly, as well as a number of anthologies. He has written 17 books, including Alvin Turner as Farmer, Uncertain the Final Run to Winter and Cottonwood County. Kloefkorn assisted in starting Nebraska's Poets-in-the-Schools program, serving as master poet for several years in Lincoln and other communities. He has given readings and conducted workshops at colleges and universities across the U.S.

The following poem expresses Kloefkorn's view of life in rural Nebraska:

September Morning in Rural Lancaster County, Nebraska

On the Gregg Nisley farm due east of Hickman Durocs with damp rubber snouts stand banging the feederlids, rehearsing the first movement of the Porcine Symphony in D-Major.

Chance is the name of the neighbor's three-year-old not yet broken to ride. When you slap its neck it quivers like love.

Sunflowers grin from their ditches like the faces of beholding nuns, while in the kitchen of the white farmhouse breakfast sizzles, breakfast pops. Take my word for it: there is no green like John Deere green.

A milkcow with eyes wide as Miss America's lies on a cushion of mulch, chewing her cud as if a wad of invisible gum.

Children no higher than up to here are playing tennis over a net of Chinese elms. Off with the tractor tire, up with the swing.

Doors to the red barn stand open as arms. Above the nearest stanchion a skeleton with its dry bones suspended rattles another command performance. Already the day's wash snaps on the line like the tails of fiercely denominational dragons.

In the far west the sky is blue and heading this way. Girl of my wildest dream, if I wasn't here, where in the name of all that claims to be holy would I be?