The Heritage Room archive contains manuscripts, artwork, photographs, letters, scrapbooks and other unpublished materials by Nebraska authors and from Nebraskans prominent in the publishing world, including:
Loren Eiseley Summary and Holdings
Weldon Kees Papers and Archives
Guide to the Dorothy Thomas Archive
Rudolph Umland Papers and Archives
The Glenn Noble Research Files
The Wright Morris-Victor Musselman Correspondence
Clifton Hillegass Papers
Throughout this listing, “Heritage” in the call number indicates the book is not a circulating copy and must be used in the “Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors” during normal operating hours. Ask your librarian for details.
All files in the Heritage Room. Files are listed with brief descriptions of contents.
There are several Kooser items in vertical files devoted to other authors, an example would be the manuscript “Remarks for Ruth Rosekrans Hoffman’s memorial service, December 2, 2007” by Ted Kooser in the Hoffman biography file. Items of this type, and Kooser letters in NLHA and library business files have never been inventoried. Ask Heritage Room staff for assistance in finding such items.
Nebraska poet Ted Kooser served two terms as Poet Laureate of the United States, 2004-2006. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced Ted Kooser’s initial appointment as Poet Laureate of the United States in August 12, 2004 with this comment: “Ted Kooser is a major poetic voice for rural and small town America and the first Poet Laureate to be chosen from the Great Plains. His verse reaches beyond his native region to touch on universal themes in accessible ways.” Soon after Kooser’s term began, Billington and other observers were acknowledging Kooser as the hardest working Poet Laureate in recent memory. Kooser’s weekly American Life in Poetry newspaper column, begun as his “Poet Laureate” project, has been described as the most successful effort in a generation to introduce the public to new poets and poetry. The success of the column has led Kooser to continue it to the present time (2010). It runs in newspapers nation-wide. Kooser completed his second term as Poet Laureate in May 2006.
Reviewers note that Kooser’s intense focus on his local and regional subject matter lends a special clarity and force to his articulation of universal concerns. Kooser’s disciplined striving to create poetry that reaches out to the widest possible audience has fueled demand for him to give readings, lectures and interviews.
Ted Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa in 1939. He attended public schools there and graduated from Iowa State University in 1962 with a major in English Education. He taught high school for a year, and then entered the University of Nebraska. After one year as a full time graduate student in the English Department he went to work for Lincoln Benefit Life, an insurance company. He completed his M.A. in English at UNL by attending night classes. He remained in Lincoln and continued at Lincoln Benefit Life, working as an underwriter and then in several executive positions, including Second Vice-President-New Business and Vice President-Public Relations. He has lived in Lincoln and on an acreage near Garland.
Kooser is a writer, an editor, and a publisher. Best known as a poet, he has also published fiction, essays, book reviews and a graphic novel. (See Ted Kooser: Items in Lincoln City Libraries’ Collections)
Kooser’s work has been reviewed in Saturday Review, The Hudson Review, and The New York Times Book Review. Writing in 1985, the critic William Cole noted that Kooser had “won just about all the honors given to poets.” These honors include two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, The Society for Midland Authors Poetry Prize, two Prairie Schooner Prizes, the Stanley Kunitz Poetry Prize and the James Boatwright Prize, among others. His Delights and Shadows won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
Reviewers describe Kooser as a poet who possesses a distinctive conversational voice that ordinary Americans understand and appreciate. Dana Gioia describes him as a specialist in short imagistic poems who has perfected “a highly charged kind of simplicity.” Gioia finds that as Kooser focused his efforts on recreating the rural culture of the Great Plains, his work has grown in intensity and integrity. Directness and honesty are essential to conversation in the places he writes about, and Kooser has refused to “bully or impress his audience” with verbal play. Working on the ground he has chosen, Gioia says, “Kooser has written more perfect poems than any poet of his generation….[and] in a quiet way, he is also one of its most original poets.” William Coleman says that Kooser “knows more about small town people” than any of his contemporaries.
The scope of Ted Kooser’s interests and activities is striking. Kooser is a visual artist with paintings and drawings in private and public collections. Kooser was editor, publisher, book designer and illustrator for his own Windflower Press, a one-man operation that specialized in contemporary poetry. Windflower Press (now inactive) garnered international recognition and awards for bringing new poetry to a broader audience and for promoting the work of younger poets.
Whether promoting the work of younger poets or serving on the Nebraska State Economic Development Commission, Kooser has made the most of every opportunity to sustain and improve the communities to which he belongs. He has served as a gubernatorial appointee to the Nebraska Arts Council and the Certificate of Need Review Board of the State Department of Health. He has been a good friend of Lincoln City Libraries. He has served as a City Council appointee to the Lincoln City Library Board, and on the Board of the Lincoln City Libraries Foundation. He was a founder and elected President of the Nebraska Literary Heritage Association, which has helped to support the collections and activities of the Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors here at Bennett Martin Public Library.
Many contemporary poets make their livings in the teaching profession, but Kooser, after what he refers to as “one disastrous year” in graduate school, made his career as a businessman. Kooser has a deep respect for ordinary people and useful labor. Speaking of his career with the insurer, Lincoln Benefit Life, Kooser says he enjoyed doing socially useful work there. He did however, at the same time, find the “immersion in abstraction” of the commercial world forbidding, and in his essay “Journey to a Place of Work” he describes how he sought to counter this by focusing on people and their stories. Some of his poetry focuses biting humor on what Kooser sees as the hazardous distance between the modern commercial world and the human soul.
Kooser’s poetry has always had a playful side. For many years he has composed and sent annual valentine poems. Although he honors the tradition by including a heart or something red somewhere, the focus and sentiment of his cards are very different from those of commercial valentines. In Lincoln and around this part of the state, women are quite flattered to receive a Kooser valentine. (Their husbands sometimes respond by sending Kooser’s wife a valentine, too.)
Kooser has been an avid promoter of local and regional literary communities, and has collaborated frequently with other Nebraska and Great Plains poets and writers. Kooser published a variety of little magazines over the years, an effort that lent a characteristic liveliness and humor to the local literary community. These magazines included The Salt Creek Reader (1967-1975), The Blue Hotel (1980-1981), and The Oak Branch Gazette (in the 1980s) among others. His Windflower Press pursues the same goals. He has collaborated on books with his friend Jim Harrison, with Bill Kloefkorn, and has contributed to many local and regional collections. Kooser and Harrison’s Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry (2003) won the 2003 Award for Poetry of the Society of Midland Authors. He has designed and illustrated books for other poets.
Out of his love for the land, the rural people, the quiet and sometimes forlorn places of southeastern Nebraska, and his gift for striking observation and intense imagery, Ted Kooser has created poetry that reaches and moves people who have never visited the Great Plains. Does his work trace the gradual disappearance of American rural culture, or celebrate its endurance? Or does Kooser focus entirely on more modest themes: a particular landscape, the presence of the past, the hidden life of natural and human worlds, or our connection to things we seem too busy to notice? Readers will have to decide for themselves.
© Lincoln City Libraries, 2010
Sponsored by the Nebraska Literary Heritage Association
All lunch talks will be held on the 4th floor of Bennett Martin Public Library during the months of October, November, December, February, March, and April. Except as noted, the 30-minute programs start at 12:10 p.m. Tours of the Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors on the 3rd floor will be available after the programs. Bring your lunch; coffee provided courtesy of The Mill.
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Author and former UNL Yell Squad member Debra Kleve White provides a firsthand account of game day in Lincoln from her book. The Spirit of Nebraska: A History of Husker Game Day Traditions offers an in-depth look at where the Cornhusker fans’ spirit began and how it evolved to today’s game day experience.
Wednesday, November 3, 2021
Timothy Schaffert will read from his new book The Perfume Thief. Complete with romance, espionage, champagne towers, and haute couture, this full-tilt sensory experience is a dazzling portrait of the underground resistance of twentieth-century Paris and a passionate love letter to the power of beauty and community in the face of insidious hate.
Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Vicki Wood, Youth Services Coordinator for Lincoln City Libraries, presents her annual “Great Books for Giving” list.
Wednesday, January 5, 2022
Rhinos in Nebraska tells the story of the Ashfall Fossil Beds, where more than two hundred perfectly preserved fossils have been found. Step into the past with author Alison Pearce Stevens and uncover the mysteries of Ashfall.
Wednesday, February 2, 2022
A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War – Winner of the Mark Lynton Prize in History – the story of the longest and most complex legal challenge to slavery in American history, presented by author William G. Thomas.
Wednesday, March 2, 2022
Joy Castro is a former Writer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University. She is currently the Willa Cather Professor of English and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her new novel Flight Risk is a compelling, gritty portrait of class in America. She traffics the rural-urban divide with complexity and compassion.
Wednesday, April 6, 2022
Lincoln City Libraries Director Pat leach will present her annual program on the American Library Association’s Notable Books List.
From a single shelf of books . . .
As long ago as 1949, the Reference Department at the Bennett Martin Public Library recognized the importance of gathering information about Nebraska authors. Over the years, what was once a single shelf of books has now grown into a room-sized collection, known as the Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors.
Our mission is to preserve and promote works by and about Nebraska authors, past and present. The collection strives to gather in one location a representative sample of written works by all Nebraska authors. Today, the Heritage Room contains more than books alone. One can also find archives of unpublished correspondence and manuscripts by and about Nebraska authors, and information files that trace author careers in clippings from newspapers, magazines, and literary journals. The Heritage Room preserves photographs, audio and video cassettes, compact discs, original artwork by authors and their illustrators, and other memorabilia that document the lives and work of Nebraska authors.
Nebraska possesses a literary tradition of striking quality. The fiction of Willa Cather and the histories of Mari Sandoz are recognized as among the most knowledgeable and detailed explorations of the settlement of the last American frontier. Native Americans have found Nebraska poet John Neihardt’s record of his encounter with Black Elk crucial in preserving their own spiritual traditions and history. Nebraska has produced some of the English language’s most widely published and influential nature writers. Nebraska poets and mystery writers, social critics and romance novelists, historians and journalists have achieved regional, national and international recognition.
Though writing is a solitary pursuit, few writers have learned their craft or found their calling without the encouragement and constructive criticism of teachers and peers. Nebraska’s literary community has been lively and ambitious ever since the first days of European settlement. The state sustains a surprising number of active literary organizations, formal and informal writer’s groups, and local and regional publications.
With the support of the Nebraska Literary Heritage Association, the Heritage Room seeks to document and promote the work of today’s Nebraska authors. Our efforts include:
John H. Ames Reading Series — This series showcases Nebraska authors reading their own works. Videotapes of these readings, and other special programs, are available for local checkout and through Interlibrary Loan.
Nebraska Authors — NebraskaAuthors.org is a collaborative project of the the UNL Center for Digital Research in the Humanities and the Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors. The website includes information on more than 4,000 Nebraska Writers, past and present. Authors who have published original work and have significant ties to Nebraska are encouraged help preserve Nebraska’s Literary History by contributing at nebraskaauthors.org/contribute
The Heritage Room Vertical Files — The Heritage Room maintains over 600 information files on Nebraska authors and related subjects which are updated regularly. Together with NAIL, these files are a window on the careers, connections, publications, and public and peer reception of Nebraska’s writers.
The Heritage Room staff works to promote Nebraska’s literary tradition through a number of outreach efforts:
Heritage Room Tours/Talks — Many civic groups and school classes come to the Heritage Room for guided tours. Staff are also available to provide programs.
Writers Write Workshops — In this popular program for 8th graders, students spend a morning writing and reading their work under the direction and encouragement of several local authors. This program is sponsored by the Nebraska Literary Heritage Association.
Writers on the Plains — This 14 minute video provides a tour of the Heritage Room collection and describes the role of the Nebraska Literary Heritage Association in celebrating, preserving and promoting the work of Nebraska authors. Viewers will appreciate the richness of Nebraska’s Literary culture through the voices of our celebrated writers.
The Nebraska Literary Heritage Association — The NLHA supports the Heritage Room through the Heritage Room Endowment Fund and volunteer projects. It is only through NLHA’s efforts that we can work toward preserving and promoting Nebraska’s literary tradition. A history of the NLHA is available on their site. For more information about NLHA’s activities or to become a member, please call 402-441-8516.
The Heritage Room is located on the third floor of Bennett Martin Public Library in Lincoln, Nebraska. The books do not circulate and special care and preservation measures help ensure their longevity. The Heritage Room collection is a multifaceted reflection of the history and literary culture of the state. We have more than pioneer stories. There are books on every topic, including philosophy, poetry, nature, psychology, politics, and pop culture. Our shelves contain many entertaining and thought provoking books for children by Nebraska authors. Our fiction collection includes romance, fantasy, contemporary, western, and mystery novels to suit every taste. Heritage Room staff will be glad to assist you with any questions you may have about Nebraska authors.
The Nebraska Federal Writers’ Project: Remembering Writers of the 1930s — This project was supported in part by the United States Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered through the Nebraska Library Commission.