Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced that Matt Mason of Omaha has been designated as Nebraska’s next State Poet. The selection process was led by the Nebraska Arts Council, Humanities Nebraska, and the Nebraska Library Commission, a group of state agencies and organizations that together presented finalists to the Governor for consideration. Mason will be installed as Nebraska State Poet 2019-2023 during a ceremony that will be announced at a later date.
“From Willa Cather to Ted Kooser, Nebraska has been home to many talented authors, artists, and poets,” said Governor Ricketts. “As our next State Poet, Matt will help celebrate Nebraska and bring our state together around our shared love of the Good Life.”
The Nebraska State Poet is selected based on artistic excellence and exemplary professionalism demonstrated by significant publications and special honors, an established history of community service in the advancement of poetry in Nebraska, and the ability to present poetry and interact effectively with a public audience.
Mason is executive director of the Nebraska Writers Collective, through which he has run the Louder Than a Bomb: Great Plains youth poetry festival each year since 2011. He is a former board president of the Nebraska Center for the Book and has served as the Nebraska State Coordinator for Poetry Out Loud, a Poetry Foundation/National Education Association program. He also edits PoetryMenu.com, a listing of every poetry event in the state of Nebraska.
Additionally, Mason has won a Pushcart Prize and two Nebraska Book Awards (for Poetry in 2007 and Anthology in 2006) for his own work. He represented Nebraska as a member of six teams at the National Poetry Slam, and he represented the United States as an organizer of the U.S. Department of State poetry programing in Romania, Nepal, Botswana, and Belarus.
“Poetry and poetry advocacy have been my life’s real project, so being honored like this is amazing and humbling,” Mason said. “I hope to get into communities around the state to do readings with authors there. I want to get to the different counties, to the Air Force Base, to different crowds and bring entertaining poetry as well as remind everyone of the poets already there in their communities.”
As Nebraska State Poet, Mason will serve a five-year renewable term as an advocate for poetry, literacy, and literature in Nebraska. His duties will include giving public presentations and readings, leading workshops and discussions, and providing other outreach in schools, libraries, literary festivals, and various venues in rural and urban communities throughout the state.
The position of Nebraska Poet Laureate was established in 1921 when John G. Neihardt, whose most famous work includes “Black Elk Speaks” and “Cycle of the West,” was appointed by the Legislature. In 1982, William Kloefkorn was appointed as Nebraska State Poet by Governor Charles Thone. Kloefkorn served as State Poet for 29 years until his death in May 2011. Twyla M. Hansen, winner of two Nebraska Book Awards and co-director of the website, “Poetry from the Plains: A Nebraska Perspective,” served from 2013-2018.