Poetry from the Plains

Poetry from the Plain poster - details below

Join us for a Poetry Reading for the website launch of “Poetry From the Plains: A Nebraska Perspective” poetryfromtheplains.org

Date: April 30, 2016
Time: 2:30-4:00 PM
Place: UNL Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center, 14th & S Street, Lincoln
Poets Reading: Twyla Hansen, Lenora Castillo, Allison Hedge Coke, Matt Mason

Free and open to all.  The public is welcome.

The new website, “Poetry From the Plains: A Nebraska Perspective” (poetryfromtheplain.org: launch date April 30, 2016) is a web resource for Nebraska poetry.  It features selected poems, scholarly essays, and historical resources about Nebraska poets whose work addresses the cultural and geographical richness of the Great Plains.  The website is hosted by UNL’s Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, and supported by grants from Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Arts Council.  The development directors are Twyla Hansen, Nebraska State Poet, and UNL English faculty Robert Brooke and Stephen Behrendt.

Eight Nebraska poets are currently featured on the website.

The three officially recognized state poets:

  • Twyla Hansen, Current Nebraska State Poet
  • William Kloefkorn, First Nebraska State Poet
  • John Neihardt, Nebraska Poet Laureate in Perpetuity

Five additional contemporary poets whose work is explicitly centered in the cultural and natural landscapes of the Great Plains, and represents vibrant cultural and poetic traditions in the region:

  • Lenora Castillo, Latina poet from Lincoln
  • Allison Hedge Coke, American Book Award indigenous poet
  • Yvonne Hollenbeck, award-winning cowgirl poet-rancher
  • Matt Mason, Omaha slam poet, Executive Director of Nebraska Writers Collective
  • Don Welch, Neruda Award winner poet from Kearney

On the website, each poet is represented by several of their poems and essays about their writing by scholars at UNL.  Additional resources include a list of other notable Nebraska poets, historical essays on the earliest poets active in Nebraska, and an annotated bibliography.  The site will be an ongoing project of the Nebraska State Poet, the UNL Department of English, and the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities.

Four of the poets featured on “Poetry From the Plains: A Nebraska Perspective” will read from their work at the Poetry Reading.

Dr. Robert Brooke

John E. Weaver Professor of English

Director, Nebraska Writing Project

202 Andrews Hall

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Lincoln, NE 68588-0333

(402) 472-1807

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Youth Writing Festivals 2016

newp kinseyOn Saturday, March 19th, NeWP hosted the Youth Writing Festivals. For our Eastern Festival, we moved locations to Gretna High School and we had a fantastic turnout. There were over 50 students there from eight different schools/districts. The Eastern Festival is for middle school students and they ranged from 6th to 9th grade. Each student received a notebook and t-shirt for their participation in the festival.

The day was broken up into four sessions, with two groups of students traveling between the sessions. Sessions were led by area middle school teachers Elizabeth Lambert, Heather Kinsey, Shelley Sheets, and Amy Tasich. Sessions focused on character development, character interactions, topic and story creation, ignoring the editor, and there was a writing marathon for each student as well. The final session of the day was for publishing student work. Student pieces can be found on our blog http://newpyouthwritingfestival.wordpress.com/.
newp publishing 2

This is the fifth year the Nebraska Writing Project has hosted a Youth Writing Festival, and the third year it has been geared towards middle school students. If you have any questions or would like to participate in the 2017 YWF, contact Amy Tasich at atasich@gmail.com.




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2016 Writing Marathons Announced

Whether you are new to writing marathons or a veteran, 2016 is an exciting year. It marks the eighth anniversary of writing marathons in Nebraska. Writing from this year’s spring and winter writing marathons is attached. Information is located at the close of this article on how to become involved with a marathon as well as when the 2016 marathons are scheduled.

This year marks the eighth2015 Writing Marathon year of the organization’s writing marathon. The inaugural marathon took place in September 2008 at Platte River State Park. Writers filled three cabins that weekend to set forth in the woods to write together. Susan Martens, current director of the Prairie Lands Writing Project and then NEWP leadership team member, organized the event after experiencing the event at a NWP conference. “After I’d done one, I realized how perfect it was, how simple but also how powerful. It’s the relationship between the writer, the group and the place.”

Writing marathons have been practiced on a national level since 1994 and have continued to evolve within classroom and writing communities since.

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Richard Louth, the director of the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project, developed the marathon process during a NWP event. It was inspired by Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones. The activity which inspired the Writing Project version of writing marathon involves a series of sessions where writers write for ten minutes then share what they have written, without comment or revision.

A pause naturally happens after each reader, but we do not say “That was great” or even “I know what you mean.” There is no good or bad, no praise or criticism. We read what we have written and go on to the next person… What usually happens is you stop thinking; you write; you become less and less self-conscious. Everyone is in the same boat, and because no comments are made, you feel freer and freer to write anything you want. (150)

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It is a gentle process that brings writer to both place and community. In small groups, marathon participants find a series of locations where they choose to visit. Stopping at each location for at least ten minutes to sit, observe, and write. Writers can choose to write in any genre and on any thought or inspiration. After an agreed upon time, the writers gather to share their work. Each member reading in part or whole the piece they have created. The other members listen and do not comment on what is shared other than to smile, nod, or simply say “thank you.” The group repeats this process at each location it travels to.

The practice of sharing this kind of writing opens the participant to noticing of space and interactions that take place within a writer’s world. The simple structure of the marathon allows the writer to see the place, community and self through new eyes.

In some way, writers have always been on some version of the writing marathon. Ernest Hemingway notes one of his experiences of a similar practice in Paris.

The story was writing itself and I was having a hard time keeping up with it. I ordered another rum St. James and I watched the girl whenever I looked up, or when I sharpened the pencil with a pencil sharpener with the shavings curling into the saucer under my drink.

This quote has become an important part of the marathon as it brings focus to the muse of place and allows us to pause, step aside, and participate in experiencing the world around us.

Participants find writing marathons to be one of the most refreshing writing activities. Students and teachers revel in their freedom and the creative inspiration that seems to present itself when one pauses to notice. Since the introduction of the writing marathon to Nebraska by Susan Martens in 2008, the NeWP has held four writing marathons a year, one each season. Additional marathons sites have varied between urban, rural, and suburban sites as well as within museums, forests, and even kayaks.

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The Platte River State Marathon is an annual fall event typically held in September. Nebraska Writing Project members, family, and friends also meet for winter and spring marathons. Past locations have included, North downtown Omaha, Kearney, Stuhr Museum, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, O’Neil, Benson, and downtown Lincoln. In addition, marathons take place in institutes and classrooms across Nebraska. “NeWP was always a great place for marathons to flourish because our site is so committed to the principle of the best teachers of writing being teachers themselves.” (Martens)

It’s true. A writing marathon becomes a unique opportunity to put pen to page with an incredible community of writers. You are invited to join in celebrating this year.


Grab your pen, favorite writing notebook, and a comfortable pair of shoes. The 2016 NEWP writing marathons are set, and waiting for you. RSVPs for the writing marathons can be sent to dweis@cox.net

Winter Marathon – Downtown Lincoln
McFarland’s and Sons’ Irish Pub
710 S P St.; downtown Lincoln, NE
Saturday, January 23, 2016
Lunch at 12:30; launch at 1:30

Spring Marathon – Stuart, NE
Cast Iron Grill
806 East Highway 20; Stuart, NE
Saturday, April 9, 2016
Lunch at 12:00; launch at 1:00

Fall Marathon – Platte River State Park
14421 346 St.; Louisville, NE
Owen landing boat dock
Saturday, September 24th
Meet and greet at 11:00; launch at 12:00

Fall Retreat – Platte River State Park
Owen cabins 8 & 9
Friday, September 23rd-25th
RSVP for a space in the NeWP cabin

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