Nebraska Authors

John Gneisenau Neihardt

Born 1881-01-08 Sharpsburg, IL (USA)

Died 1973-11-03
Columbia, MO (USA)

Neihardt the poet is most celebrated for his epic poem, the Cycle of the West, completed in 5 volumes over 28 years. The early parts of this won him great literary fame and appointment in 1921 as "Poet Laureate of Nebraska and the Plains."

Later in life, he became famous all over again for work begun in 1930. His interest in Native American customs, spirituality and religion led him to interview the Lakota Sioux holy man Nicholas Black Elk. Black Elk felt a kinship with Neihardt and set out to relate his spiritual autobiography to Neihardt to record and pass on. Neihardt regarded himself as the junior partner in the joint effort that produced the book Black Elk Speaks, which, published in 1932, brought critical acclaim but little wider interest. Contributions to Vine Deloria, Jr., Ed. A Sender of Words: Essays in Memory of John G. Neihardt relate the importance to Native American culture and history of both Black Elk Speaks and When the Tree Flowered, which recounted Black Elk's stories of the history of the Lakota and their customs.

Republication of Black Elk Speaks in the 1960s and a flood of interest after memorable interview with Dick Cavett in 1970 made Neihardt a celebrity once again at the end of his life. Some of this was in a kind of new age spirit that overlooked the ethnographic depth of his efforts to preserve Black Elk's legacy. It also overshadowed Neihardt's great claim to literary fame as a poet.

The Neihardt Center maintains a museum and library, and seeks to preserve Neihardt's literary heritage in the context of the history of the Great Plains. Neihardt remains the "Poet Laureate of Nebraska and the Plains" in perpetuity, having been appointed in 1921. Neihardt's successors beginning with Bill Kloefkorn in 1982 were given the title "State Poet," so as not to replace Neihardt in that title.

In old age, Neihardt lived in Lincoln with the parents of writer Kay Young.

The Heritage Room is fortunate to own a copy of A Bundle of Myrrh, 1907, the book of love poems that led Mona Martinsen to correspond with Neihardt and come to Nebraska to marry him.

See: Timothy Anderson, Lonesome Dreamer: The Life of John G. Neihardt, 2016
Vine Deloria, ed., A Sender of Words: Essays in Memory of John G. Neihardt, 1984
John G. Neihardt (Lori Holm Utecht, editor) Knowledge and Opinion: Essays and Literary Criticism of John G. Neihardt, 2002

Places Lived

Bancroft, NE
Illinois
Branson, MO

Author Of

  • Poetry
  • Biography
  • Nonfiction

Keywords

Epic Poetry; Fur Trade; Memoir; Ethnography; Native Americans

Occupation

Writer
Poet
Professor

Places Worked

Neihardt served as a professor of poetry at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
Literary editor in St. Louis, MO
He was a poet-in-residence and lecturer at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri from 1948 on

Honors

Nebraska 150 Books honor for A Cycle of the West and Black Elk Speaks, 2017
“150 Notable Nebraskans”, Number 6 on the Journal Star Sesquicentennial List of Significant Nebraskans
Poetry Society National Prize in 1919
Poet Laureate of Nebraska and the Plains,1921
Inducted into the Nebraska Hall of fame, 1974
John G. Neihardt Scholarship at Wayne State College named in his honor
Neihardt Hall, Wayne State College, named in his honor

Associations

Daughter, Hilda Neihardt, of Tekamah has been a large influence in nurturing of Neihardt Center in Bancroft and in the publishing and republishing of early works
Ron Hull's interviews on NETV in 1962 first brought Neihardt back into the public eye in Nebraska. Hull also brought Neihardt and Mari Sandoz together and they became friends
The famous Dick Cavett interview that aired April 27, 1971 brought Neihardt national attention

Bibliography

John G. Neihardt
The Divine Enchantment. 1900.
A Bundle of Myrrh.1907. (poems)
The Lonesome Trail. 1907. (stories)
Man Song. 1909.
The River and I. 1910.
The Dawn Builder. 1911.
Life's Lure. 1911.
Stranger at the Gate. 1912.
Death of Agrippina. 1913. (collected lyrics)
The Song of Hugh Glass. 1915.
The Quest. 1916.
The Song of Three Friends. 1919.
The Splendid Wayfaring. 1920.
Two Mothers. 1921.
The Poet's Pack. 1921.
Laureate Address. 1921.
Poetic Values. 1925.
Song of the Indian Wars. 1925.
Indian Tales and Others. 1926.
Collected Poems. 1926.
Black Elk Speaks. 1932.
Song of the Messiah. 1936. (poems)
Song of Jed Smith. 1941.
A Cycle of the West. 1949.
When the Tree Flowered. 1951. (prose)
A Cycle of the West. 1961. (University of Nebraska Press)
Knowledge & Opinion, Essays and Literary Criticism of John G. Neihardt. 2002. (Edited by Lori Holm Utecht)
The Wonder of It All. 1970. (Recording)
Nebraska Poetry: A Sesquicentennial Anthology, 1867-2017 (Contributor)

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