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Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 143

The range of John G. Neihardt (NI-hahrt) is extensive. During a seventy-five-year literary career, he wrote at least 3,027 poems, plays, novels, stories, essays, articles, reviews, and histories, as well as a two-volume autobiography. Most of Neihardt’s prose fiction was written before 1912. His short stories about fur trappers and Native Americans gathered in The Lonesome Trail (1907) and Indian Tales, and Others (1926) are often excellent. His early novels are less successful, but Black Elk Speaks (1932) and his last novel, When the Tree Flowered (1951), are considered masterpieces of the literature on Native Americans and have been translated into many languages.

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In addition, Neihardt excelled in nonfiction: The River and I (1910) chronicles his outdoor adventure down the Missouri River, The Splendid Wayfaring (1920) provides a history of fur expeditions, and Poetic Values (1925) outlines Neihardt’s philosophy of poetry developed during an editorial career of almost forty years.


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Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 182

For many, John G. Neihardt is the premier Western poet; he is also a primary midwestern literary critic and authority on the Plains Indians. In 1917, he received his first honorary doctorate from the University of Nebraska, and his epics were subsequently printed in school editions to acquaint Nebraska’s students with their heritage. In 1921, he was celebrated as the poet laureate of Nebraska; he was awarded the Gold Scroll Medal of Honor in 1935 and the American Writers Award for Poetry in 1936. He became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1943 and served as chancellor for the Academy of American Poets from 1951 to 1967.

International recognition came in 1959 in Lindau, Germany, when Neihardt was made a fellow of the International Institute of Arts and Letters. He was honored as the Plains State poet laureate in 1968, and at the time of his death, there was a bill before Congress to appoint him consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress. Although he received all these honors graciously, his goal was to do for the prairies what Homer had done for Ilium.


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Aly, Lucile F. John G. Neihardt: A Critical Biography. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1977. The most complete biography of Neihardt, factual and well documented, although it lacks an index.

Deloria, Vine, Jr., ed. A Sender of Words: Essays in Memory of John G. Neihardt. 1984. Reprint. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005. A collection of essays honoring Neihardt, contributed by Dee Brown (author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, 1970), as well as by editors, historians, professors, anthropologists, singers, actors, political commentators, and theologians. The range of contributors and their topics testifies to the universal appeal and the expansive application of Neihardt’s work.

Lee, Fred L. John G. Neihardt: The Man and His Western Writings. Kansas City, Mo.: Trail Guide Press, 1974. A friend’s brief account of Neihardt’s life; Lee, an expert on writings about the American West, also examines Neihardt’s work in the light of that tradition.

Lind, L. R. “The Great American Epic.” Classical and Modern Literature 17, no. 1 (Fall, 1996): 7. Examines North and South American long poems that convey traditional beliefs and customs fundamental to specific American cultures; Neihardt’s A Cycle of the West is examined among other twentieth century North and South American poets.

Neihardt, Hilda Martinsen. The Broidered Garment: The Love Story of Mona Martinsen and John G. Neihardt. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006. Neihardt’s daughter writes of the romance between her parents and of their subsequent marriage. Her mother was a sculptor living in Paris when she read a volume of Neihardt’s poetry and wrote to him.

Richards, John Thomas. Rawhide Laureate: John G. Neihardt. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1983. An annotated bibliography of the works of Neihardt. Also includes a complete listing of Neihardt’s articles, essays, reviews, and literary criticism, as well as recordings and films of the poet, books and dissertations on his life and work, and public and private collections of Neihardtania.

_______. A Voice Against the Wind: John G. Neihardt as Critic and Reviewer. Oregon, Wis.: New Frontiers Foundation, 1986. Covers Neihardt’s career as a professional critic, reviewer, and editor; outlines his views on Western literary tradition and examines his critical philosophy, which ultimately became the graduate course he taught at the University of Missouri.

Whitney, Blair. John G. Neihardt. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1976. Contains biographical and critical material, especially focusing on the rugged, frontier aspects of both the man and his work.

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Critical Essays