The Big Read Blog (Archive)


August 18, 2009
Washington, DC

Nebraska prairie by jasminedelilah from Flickr

Given his tenure as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2004-2006,  it's fair to surmise that Ted Kooser knows a thing or two about inspiration. In Kooser's case, much of that inspiration comes from Nebraska where he's lived for more than 40 years. Here are some thoughts from the poet on Willa Cather, who also took great inspiration from the Cornhusker State. (Check out the audio guide  to hear more from Ted Kooser on Willa Cather and My Antonia.)

Well, [Willa Cather] really wanted to be a kind of Henry James, in a way. She went east , turning her back on [Nebraska]and got there and wrote some things and was fairly successful in that more elite place and way of writing and so on. Then the prairie books come along and, she has discovered this source of material from her experience. I think it was Flannery O'Connor who said once that you've had enough experience by the time you're eight years old to write for the rest of your life, you know? So that, in a way, is what's happening here. [Cather's] going back and looking at all that experience she had as a girl, and it's become valuable to her in a way. It must have made her quite exotic among those people, you know, who were in Manhattan and so on.


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