Spring Conference: May 31-June 2, 2012

The 57th annual Willa Cather Spring Conference and the one-day scholarly symposium preceding it will be focused on Cather the poet, on poetry, and on today's poets from the Great Plains region. Cather's close readers have long noted her sharp presentation of herself as prairie poet with "Prairie Spring" at the beginning of her "real" first novel, O Pioneers!, yet her actual first book, April Twilights (1903), and its contexts, have received much less critical attention. In much the same way, the scholarly edition of Cather's Poems, now in preparation, will be among the last volumes published in that series by the University of Nebraska Press.

Willa Cather Spring Conference & Scholarly Symposium

May 31 - June 2, 2012

Red Cloud, Nebraska

Willa Cather, Poet: Making Herself Born

A detailed schedule of events will be available at registration.
Meals will be on your own Friday.

Thursday, Friday, & Saturday

Inspired by April Twilights Exhibit, Gallery

Portraits of the Prairie: The Land That Inspired Willa Cather Exhibit by Richard Schilling, Auditorium

Complimentary tours of Cather sites will be available to registrants at 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:00 p.m., Bookstore

Thursday, May 31
8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Registration, Bookstore
8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Symposium, Presentation of scholarly papers by a diverse group of Cather scholars, Auditorium & Auld Library
5:00 p.m. Dinner on your own
7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. "Pints & Notes," Burlington Depot
Friday, June 1
8:00- 5:00 p.m. Registration, Bookstore

10:15 a.m. -10:30 a.m. Welcome and Orientation with Robert Thacker, Auditorium

10:30 a.m. -10:45 a.m. Remarks by Thomas Reese Gallagher, Willa Cather Foundation Vice-President and Leslie Levy, Willa Cather Foundation Executive Director, Auditorium

10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. 26th Annual Presentation of the Norma Ross Walter Scholarship, Virgil Albertini, Auditorium

12:15 p.m.-1:30 p.m. Lunch on your own

1:45 p.m.-3:15 p.m. "The Nebraska Presence Poets" with Mary K. Stillwell and panelists Lucy Adkins, Twyla Hansen, Marge Saiser, and Sarah McKinstry-Brown, Auditorium

Simultaneous Activities:

3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Poetry Documentary: Louder Than A Bomb, Auditorium

3:45 p.m.-5:00 p.m. Nature in Cather's Poetry & Prairie Walk, Willa Cather Memorial Prairie

5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m. Dinner on your own

7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. Artist Reception for April Twilights & Portraits of the Prairie Exhibits, Auditorium & Gallery

8:00 p.m. Cather related entertainment, Auditorium

Saturday, June 2
8:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Kolache and coffee; Registration

8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m. Church service, Historic Grace Episcopal Church

10:00 a.m.-11:45 a.m. The Passing Show: "Willa Cather, Poet: Making Herself Born" with Mark Madigan, Mary Ryder, and Robert Thacker, and readings of a selection of Cather's poems by Lora Black from Nebraska Public Radio, Auditorium

12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m. P.E.O. salad luncheon and introduction of the Board of Governors, Auditorium

1:20 p.m.-4:30 p.m. A variety of readings, discussions, and workshops will be led by Cather scholars. (A detailed schedule will be available at registration.)

6:00 p.m.-7:15 p.m. Banquet, Red Cloud Women's Chamber of Commerce, Auditorium

7:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m. The Apollon Theatre presents . . .

"Out of the Lips of Silence"

A movement and multi-media piece inspired by Willa Cather's poem "Prairie Spring," Auditorium

A letter from Bob Thacker, 2012 Conference Organizer . . .

While it is often said that Willa Cather's prose is "poetic," very few readers have had much to say about Cather's own poetry. In 1962 scholar Bernice Slote from the University of Nebraska published "Willa Cather and Her First Book" in her edition of that first book, April Twilights (1903) --that essay remains the key study of Cather the poet (Revised ed., Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1968).

This year's Spring Conference and Scholarly Symposium seeks to redress this situation. We seek to examine and to understand the significance of Cather's poetry in her career. Some of her earliest literary efforts were poems and, as she made her way as critic and journalist in Lincoln and then on to Pittsburgh during the 1890s, Cather showed herself drawn to poetry as much as she was to the short fiction she was also writing then. Much has been made of her enthusiasm for the work of A. H. Housman, and it is significant that she was the first American editor to republish one his poems in The Home Monthly-in this connection too, she famously visited Housman in London during her first trip to Europe in 1902. And just as she later shifted from Jamesian models when she moved from the drawing rooms of Alexander's Bridge (1912) to the Nebraska prairies in O Pioneers! (1913), so too did she move from classical and continental poetic subjects as she came to write the poem, "Prairie Spring" (1912), that serves as frontispiece in the latter book, her second "first" novel. Once she had made her name as a novelist, this shift was confirmed by April Twilights and Other Poems (1923), a very different collection from that first 1903 version published by Richard G. Badger in Boston. And though not often published, Cather continued to write poems-"Poor Marty" (1931), for instance-and to reshape the presentation of those she had published.

What this suggests is that Cather's poems are deserving of sustained consideration: they demonstrate some of her earliest attempts at being literary; they help further to define her biography; and finally they capture in short forms the lyric impulse on which her "poetic" prose rests. Do enjoy our explorations, do enjoy the performances of Cather's poems and, most especially, do enjoy the continuing artistic inspiration of the Nebraska prairie landscape surrounding us all!

Bob Thacker, 2012 Spring Conference Organizer

Call for Papers and Invitation to Participate

Willa Cather, Poet: Making Herself Born

The 2012 Spring Conference will be a lively celebration of poets and poetry on the Great Plains with readings and performances, discussions, and a "Passing Show" panel devoted to Cather as a writer who began as a poet and then established herself as a writer of prose both luminous and poetic. The one-day scholarly symposium preceding the conference (Thursday, May 31) will focus on Cather as an engaged fin de siècle poet-aesthete intent on making her mark in literature. Possible paper topics include:

• Cather and 19th Century Poetry and Poetics
• Periodical Publication, the making of April Twilights
• Cather, Poetry, and Pittsburgh
• Cather and Housman or Other Comparisons
• Cather's Poetry and McClure's Magazine
April Twilights as a Richard G. Badger Volume
• Revising April Twilights into April Twilights and Other Poems (1923)
• Cather and the Poetic Throughout the Fiction

Proposals, inquiries, and expressions of interest should be sent by February 15, 2012 to:

Robert Thacker
Canadian Studies Program
St. Lawrence University
Canton, New York 13617