Nebraska's State Poet Laureate


Nebraska Poet Laureate John G. Neihardt (1881-1973), born near Sharpsburg, Ill., first moved to Nebraska with his family in 1892. He was educated at Wayne Normal School and taught school following his graduation. He later served as secretary to the Omaha Indian agent near Bancroft, where he acquired many of the influences found in his writing. In 1905, he became editor of the Bancroft Blade and ran the newspaper for two years before selling the paper and concentrating on writing.

Neihardt's first book of poetry was published in 1908. From this time, his work began to receive critical acclaim, and his name was first listed in Who's Who in America that same year.

After 1911, Neihardt limited his writing to poetry. In 1912, he began writing "The Epic Cycle of the West," consisting of five long narrative poems, which became his chief literary work. These poems are Neihardt's substantial and unique contribution to the history of Nebraska and the West.

Neihardt was named Poet Laureate of Nebraska by the 1921 Legislature. State lawmakers called attention to both the epic quality of his work and its patriotic value: ". . . John G. Neihardt, a citizen of Nebraska, has written a national epic wherein he has developed the mood of courage with which our pioneers explored and subdued our plains and has thus inspired in Americans, the love of the land and its heroes, whereby great national traditions are built and perpetuated . . ." Neihardt was named to the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1974.10