Dr. Kate Benzel
UNK Martin Distinguished Professor of English, 308.865.8294

“Prayers for the People: Carl Sandburg’s Poetry and Songs” will come to life at 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12, on the stage of the Theatre of the American West in Republican City.   

Two Nebraska voices — University of Nebraska at Kearney English professor and orator Dr. Charles Peek, and Kearney singer and songwriter Mike Adams — have collaborated on the performances of Sandburg’s Great Plains poetry and folk songs from The Great American Songbag. 

The presentation, which is free and open to the public, is being made possible by grants from the Nebraska Humanities Council and University of Nebraska at Kearney Research Services Council. Seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis. 

“Both performers bring to the project a wealth of literary and musical expertise and a real connection with Nebraska,” said Dr. Kate Benzel, UNK professor of English, noting that Sandburg played a significant role in early 20th Century American culture by depicting its people, especially Midwesterners, as the foundation of American democratic values. 

“His lecture-recitals generated pride, encouraged responsibility and celebrated diversity at the center of this value system,” she said. “However, his prairie poems and his contribution to American folk music have been all but lost among academics’ interest in the Chicago poems and the Abraham Lincoln biography. 

“These performances recover Sandburg’s contribution to Great Plains culture by replicating his lecture-recitals and focusing on his prairie poems and songs.” 

The performance will focus on Sandburg’s Cornhuskers (1918) and Smokeand Steel (1922) collections that depict the Great Plains landscape, and on American folk songs from his compilation The American Songbag (1927). 

An additional performance, which will include Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate 2004-2006, is scheduled at the Merryman Performing Arts Center in Kearney on Friday, Nov. 16. Tickets for that presentation will be available from the center beginning in August.