Lonesome Dreamer (Review)

I finally got around to reading the latest biography of the former poet laureate of Nebraska, Lonesome Dreamer: The Life of John G. Neihardt. The man was a noteworthy figure in Northeast Nebraska who grew up and worked for awhile in Wayne, Nebraska. Neihardt attended Nebraska Normal College before it was renamed Wayne State College. The town and college are very familiar to me.

Neihardt was born at the tail-end of the pioneer era of the Great Plains, on January 8, 1881 at Sharpsburg, Illinois.  When the youngster was ten, his family moved to Wayne, Nebraska where he began writing poetry at the age of twelve.  After graduating from the State Normal College at the tender age of 16, Neihardt taught classes in area rural schools.

In 1901 Neihardt moved to nearby Bancroft where he tried his hand at journalism. After an unsuccessful job in Omaha, he returned to Bancroft to resume his writing career. Neihardt strongly disliked his contemporary poets and admired those who composed in standard styles. One of Neihardt’s all time favorite poets was Alfred Tennyson.

Neihardt became accepted by the Eastern literary establishment in spite of his resistance to modernism, not because of it. His great passion was lengthy epic poetry, much of it was judged with mixed reviews.

The poet is best known for his book Black Elk Speaks, the story of Black Elk the Lakota holy man. That book tells an idealized tale of the spiritual life of the Oglala Lakota healer and visionary. Neihardt captured a piece of a quickly vanishing spirituality and endangered culture of the age.

Neihardt’s most famous work was the result of a meeting in South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation. Black Elk asked Neihardt to share the story of the Lakota people with the world. Indeed, the book has been read and studied by people in many countries. If you have not read Black Elk Speaks, I recommend you spend some quality time with this great work of American literature.

The balance of Anderson’s biography shows Neihardt for the eccentric man he was. Neihardt described himself as an outsider who didn’t hold down normal jobs. He seemed like an oddball to people in the early 20th century. He had a very resilient and energetic persona. The poet was a stubborn character with a sizable ego. He had an insightful mind and a sharp sense of humor. Furthermore, Neihardt was deeply spiritual but not at all religious.

Lonesome Dreamer provides insight about the mind of one of America’s noteworthy writers and poets. If you are interested in the lives and times of authors, you’ll appreciate this biography of John G. Neihardt.

This book is Timothy G. Anderson’s first. Anderson spent his boyhood in Oakland, Nebraska where he worked at the Oakland Independent newspaper. He briefly attended South Dakota State University and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He is a former journalism instructor at the same university. Anderson has worked at such newspapers as the New York Times and Newsday.

Lonesome Dreamer: The Life of John G. Neihardt by Timothy G. Anderson; 336 pages, published August 2016 by Bison Books; ISBN: 978-0-8032-9025-9 }

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes John G. Neihardt.  “Everything the Power of the World does is in a circle. The Sky is round and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball and so are all the stars. The Wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles. … The Sun
comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The Moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Books, History, Hometown and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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