Willa Sibert Cather
Biography of Willa Sibert Cather
Willa Siebert Cather (December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947) was an American author who grew up in Nebraska. She is best known for her depictions of frontier life on the Great Plains in novels such as O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, and The Song of the Lark.
Cather moved to join the editorial staff of McClure's and in 1908 was promoted to managing editor. As a journalist, she co-authored, alongside Georgina M. Wells, a critical biography of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. It was serialized in McClure's in 1907-8 and published the next year as a book. Christian Scientists were outraged and tried to buy up every copy. The work was reprinted by the University of Nebraska Press in 1993. In 1942 Cather met a variety of authors in New York. Sarah Orne Jewett advised her to rely less on the influence of Henry James and more on her own experiences in Nebraska. For her novels, Cather returned to the prairie for inspiration and also drew on her experiences in France. These works became both popular and critical successes.
In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours, published in 1922. This work had been inspired by reading her cousin G.P. Cather's wartime letters home to his mother. He was the first officer from Nebraska killed in World War I. Those letters are now held in the George Cather Ray Collection at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries.
Cather was celebrated by critics like H.L. Mencken for writing in plainspoken language about ordinary people. When novelist Sinclair Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Literature, he paid homage to her by saying that Cather should have won the honor.
Later critics tended to favor more experimental authors. In times of political activism some agreed with Cather, a political conservative, for writing about conditions of ordinary people, rather than working to change them.
Willa Sibert Cather Poems
In every line a supple beauty - The restless head a little bent - Disgust of pleasure, scorn of duty, The unseeing eyes of discontent.
"Grandmither, Think Not I Forget"
Grandmither, think not I forget, when I come back to town, An' wander the old ways again, an' tread them up and down. I never smell the clover bloom, nor see the swallows pass, Wi'out I mind how good ye were unto a little lass;
Poppies On Ludlow Castle
THROUGH halls of vanished pleasure, And hold of vanished power, And crypt of faith forgotten, A came to Ludlow tower.
The Hawthorn Tree
ACROSS the shimmering meadows-- Ah, when he came to me! In the spring-time,
'Have you been with the King to Rome, Brother, big brother?' 'I've been there and I've come home.
'ROWSES, Rowses! Penny a bunch!' they tell you-- Slattern girls in Trafalgar, eager to sell you. Roses, roses, red in the Kensington sun,
IN the tavern of my heart Many a one has sat before, Drunk red wine and sung a stave, And, departing, come no more.
Street In Packingtown
IN the gray dust before a frail gray shed, By a board fence obscenely chalked in red, A gray creek willow, left from country days,
The old West, the old time, The old wind singing through The red, red grass a thousand miles - And Spanish Johnny, you!
WOE is me to tell it thee, Winter winds in Arcady! Scattered is thy flock and fled From the glades where once it fed,
I KNEW them both upon Miranda's isle, Which is of youth a sea-bound seigniory: Misshapen Caliban, so seeming vile,
In every line a supple beauty -
The restless head a little bent -
Disgust of pleasure, scorn of duty,
The unseeing eyes of discontent.
I often come to sit beside him,
This youth who passed and left no trace
Of good or ill that did betide him,
Save the disdain upon his face.