Kloefkorn, William

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Kloefkorn, William


Education: Emporia State University, M.S., 1958.


Office—Nebraska Wesleyan University, 5000 St. Paul Ave., Lincoln, NE 68504-2794.


Poet. Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, NE, professor, 1962-1997, emeritus professor, 1997—.


Named Nebraska State Poet, 1982; Nebraska Book Award, nonfiction category, 2004, for Restoring the Burnt Child: A Primer.



Alvin Turner as Farmer, Windflower Press (Lincoln, NE), 1974.

Uncertain the Final Run to Winter, Windflower Press (Lincoln, NE), 1974.

Loony, [Springfield, IL], 1975.

Ludi jr, Pentagram Press (Milwaukee, WI), 1976.

(With Ted Kooser) Cottonwood Country: Poems, Windflower Press (Lincoln, NE), 1979.

Not Such a Bad Place to Be, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 1980.

Let the Dance Begin, State Street Press (Pittsford, NY), 1981.

Honeymoon for Doris (1933-2032), BkMk Press, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Missouri-Kansas City (Kansas City, MO), 1982.

On Common Ground: The Poetry of William Kloefkorn, Ted Kooser, Greg Kuzma, and Don Welch, edited by Mark Sanders and J.V. Brummels, Sandhills Press (Ord, NE), 1983.

Going Out, Coming Back: Poems, White Pine Press (Fredonia, NY), 1993.

Burning the Hymnal: The Uncollected Poems of William Kloefkorn, edited by Ted Genoways, Slow Tempo Press (Lincoln, NE), 1994.

(With David Lee) Covenants: Poems, Spoon River Poetry Press (Granite Falls, MN), 1996.

Treehouse: New and Selected Poems, White Pine Press (Fredonia, NY), 1996.

This Death by Drowning (memoir), University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1996.

Welcome to Carlos, Spoon River Poetry Press (Granite Falls, MN), 2000.

Loup River Psalter, Spoon River Poetry Press (Granite Falls, MN), 2001.

Sergeant Patrick Gass, Chief Carpenter: On the Trail With Lewis & Clark: Poems, Spoon River Poetry Press (Granite Falls, MN), 2002.

Restoring the Burnt Child: A Primer (memoir), University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2003.

Fielding Imaginary Grounders, Spoon River Poetry Press (Granite Falls, MN), 2004.

At Home on This Moveable Earth (memoir), University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2006.

Also author of the short-story collection, A Time to Sink Her Pretty Little Ship. Contributor to periodicals, including Prairie Schooner, Georgia Review, and Poet & Critic.


William Kloefkorn is the state poet of Nebraska and the author of over a dozen poetry collections and several volumes of memoir. According to a Publishers Weekly contributor, Kloefkorn is "consistently accessible and restrained, practicing his art without artifice." Similarly, Jerry Wesco, writing in the Midwest Quarterly, felt "there's a focused relaxedness about Kloefkorn's voice that keeps the reader's interest." Yet Kloefkorn's seemingly down-home content and style belie something deeper. Writing in the Explicator, Tom Hansen noted that Kloefkorn "has done much to encourage our perception of him as a folksy humorist who celebrates, while poking gentle fun at, small-town life in rural mid-America." However, Hansen went on to note that many of Kloefkorn's poems "reveal a man who has a religious outlook on life."

The collection Going Out, Coming Back: Poems is in many ways typical of Kloefkorn's verse output. In the first of two sections, a young boy is the narrator of images of a small town in the 1940s. Then, in the second half, the narrative voice changes to that of a grandfather, the young boy now grown much older. This grandfather views the same youth in a small town in retrospect. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly praised the shorter poems in the collection as "quiet and unpresumptuous." Similarly, the 1996 collection Treehouse: New and Selected Poems deals in images of small-town America and a simpler way of life. Writing in the Explicator, Tom Hansen found that "On a Porch Swing Swinging" and other poems from the collection, "while retaining that comfortable, folksy, small-town quality characteristic of nearly all Kloefkorn's work, are somber reflections on impending death." In Loup River Psalter, Kloefkorn provides a "leisurely and impressionistic account of the author's journey with his friends down Nebraska's Loup River" in verse, according to Ronald Charles Epstein in the Midwest Quarterly. Epstein also praised the work for its "honest nostalgia and compelling characters." Of Kloefkorn's 2004 collection, Fielding Imaginary Grounders, Midwest Quarterly reviewer Wesco praised the "comfortable, assured voice of a poet many years at the craft" in this "fine collection."

Kloefkorn has also been highly praised for his prose and verse memoirs of his youth in Kansas. The first of these, This Death by Drowning, uses the metaphor of the poet's near death by drowning to connect memories of his youth. Frank Caso, writing in Booklist, concluded: "Sad, humorous, whimsical, sentimental, and of course poetic, these memoirs celebrate the profundity of life and death." Similar praise came from a Publishers Weekly contributor, who commended "these wondrous recollections." The same reviewer went on to comment that "after the last line, readers will turn back to page one and start again, slowly." David Kirby, writing in Library Journal, also had a high assessment of This Death by Drowning, calling it "a quirky, funny, moving memoir full of unforgettable characters."

Kloefkorn's second installment of memoir, Restoring the Burnt Child: A Primer, looks at the years in his life from ten to thirteen. Wesco noted in the Midwest Quarterly that "with prose that becomes lyrical in its simplicity, [Kloefkorn] remembers for us the life of his small Kansas town and the townspeople that gave it texture." Wesco went on to observe that Kloefkorn "uses language so gently that the reader never feels spoken to or taught." Kloefkorn uses earth as the symbol for his third book of memoir, At Home on This Moveable Earth, a book filled with "deftly wrought imagery so powerful and yet so poetic," according to Booklist contributor Carol Haggas. Kloefkorn plans to finish the quartet of volumes of memoir with a final installment using air as the connecting metaphor.



Kloefkorn, William, This Death by Drowning, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1996.

Kloefkorn, William, Restoring the Burnt Child: A Primer, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2004.

Kloefkorn, William, At Home on This Moveable Earth, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2006.


Booklist, September 15, 1997, Frank Caso, review of This Death by Drowning, p. 198; April 15, 2006, Carol Haggas, review of At Home on This Moveable Earth, p. 21.

Explicator, spring, 2001, Tom Hansen, review of "Easter Sunday," and "Riding My Bicycle without Hands down Huntington Street," p. 159; spring, 2003, Tom Hansen, review of "On a Porch Swing Swinging," p. 178.

Library Journal, August, 1997, David Kirby, review of This Death by Drowning, p. 87.

Midwest Quarterly, spring, 2002, Ronald Charles Epstein, review of Welcome to Carlos, p. 364, and Loup River Psalter, p. 365; winter, 2005, Jason Wesco, review of Restoring the Burnt Child, p. 203, and Jerry Wesco, Fielding Imaginary Grounders, p. 205.

Publishers Weekly, November 25, 1996, review of Treehouse: New and Selected Poems, p. 72; June 23, 1997, review of This Death by Drowning, p. 76; March 29, 1993, review of Going Out, Coming Back: Poems, p. 47.


Creighton University—Nebraska Center for Writers Web site,http://mockingbird.creighton.edu/ (March 12, 2007), "William Kloefkorn."

Nebraska Wesleyan University Web site,http://www.nebrwesleyan.edu/ (March 12, 2007), "Professor William C. Kloefkorn."

NHWritersProject.org,http://www.nhwritersproject.org/ (March 12, 2007), "William Kloefkorn."

University of Nebraska Press Web site,http://unp.unl.edu/ (March 12, 2007), "Restoring the Burnt Child: A Primer."