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Willa Cather

1873–1947

Willa Cather was born in Virginia on December 7, 1873. Her family moved to Nebraska in 1883, ultimately settling in the town of Red Cloud, where the National Willa Cather Center is located today. She attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Cather moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1896 to pursue a career in journalism and work for the women's magazine Home Monthly. After a few years, she took a break to teach high school English and focus on her creative writing. In 1903 she published her first book, April Twilights (The Gorham Press), a collection of poems, and began writing and publishing short stories. In 1906, she moved to New York City to take an editorial position at McClure's Magazine, where she worked until 1911 when she left to again focus on her creative writing. 

She is the author of twenty books and best know for her works of fiction, including Death Comes for the Archbishop (Alfred A. Knopf, 1927); One of Ours (Alfred A. Knopf, 1922), which won the Pulitzer Prize; My Antonia (Houghton Mifflin, 1918); and O, Pioneers! (Houghton Mifflin, 1913).

Cather was awarded a gold medal in fiction by the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1944. She died in New York City on April 24, 1947, and is memorialized at the American Poets' Corner at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
April Twilights, and Other Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1923)
April Twilights (The Gorham Press, 1903)

Prose
On Writing: Critical Studies on Writing as an Art (Alfred A. Knopf, 1949)
The Old Beauty, and Others (Alfred A. Knopf, 1948)
Sapphira and the Slave Girl (Alfred A. Knopf, 1940)
The Novels and Stories of Willa Cather (Houghton Mifflin, 1937)
Not Under Forty (Alfred A. Knopf, 1936)
Lucy Gayheart (Alfred A. Knopf, 1935)
Shadows on the Rock (Alfred A. Knopf, 1931)
Death Comes for the Archbishop (Alfred A. Knopf, 1927)
The Professor's House (Alfred A. Knopf, 1925)
My Mortal Enemy (Alfred A. Knopf, 1926)
One of Ours (Alfred A. Knopf, 1922)
Youth and the Bright Medusa (Alfred A. Knopf, 1920)
My Ántonia (Houghton Mifflin, 1918)
The Song of the Lark (Houghton Mifflin, 1915)
O Pioneers! (Houghton Mifflin, 1913)
Alexander's Bridge (Houghton Mifflin, 1912)
The Troll Garden (McClure, Phillips & Co., 1905)

By This Poet

9

Prairie Spring

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.

L’Envoi

Where are the loves that we have loved before
When once we are alone, and shut the door?
No matter whose the arms that held me fast,
The arms of Darkness hold me at the last.
No matter down what primrose path I tend,
I kiss the lips of Silence in the end.
No matter on what heart I found delight,
I come again unto the breast of Night.
No matter when or how love did befall,
’Tis Loneliness that loves me best of all,
And in the end she claims me, and I know
That she will stay, though all the rest may go.
No matter whose the eyes that I would keep
Near in the dark, ’tis in the eyes of Sleep
That I must look and look forever more,
When once I am alone, and shut the door.

Prairie Dawn

A crimson fire that vanquishes the stars;
A pungent odor from the dusty sage;
A sudden stirring of the huddled herds;
A breaking of the distant table-lands
Through purple mists ascending, and the flare
Of water ditches silver in the light;
A swift, bright lance hurled low across the world;
A sudden sickness for the hills of home.