Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Schoonering Through Nebraska

Tenth Stop: Beatrice, or “Ten Things I Learned on Tour”

Kwame Dawes and Marianne Kunkel are embarking on a goodwill tour across Nebraska, from public library to public library to connect people with the journal and to celebrate the value of the literary arts in the states. Along the way, they are blogging about their journey. This is Marianne’s last blog entry in the series after visiting Beatrice, Nebraska.

1. Nice hotels are worth the money.
2. Carhenge is no joke.
Maybe it was simply the time of day we saw it—low sun, right before dusk. Or the time of year—the gray cars gently contrasted with the yellow prairie. But it was tall enough to be almost majestic, and it was so photogenic! I didn’t take one bad photo.
3. Percentages are our friend.
So only eight people came to our reading in Potter, NE. Put that in the context of Potter’s population (around 400) and that’s 2 percent of the town! I won’t scare you by revealing the number of zeros in our percentages from other towns.
4. Time doesn’t stop, though it feels like it.
There were times I forgot what day of the week it was, and nights I stayed up late working, which threw me into a fog. But while traveling, we heard about the deaths of Connecticut schoolchildren and the gang-rape of a woman on a bus in New Delhi, and I saw many dead deer and dogs on the side of the road. So time doesn’t stop.
5. BBC beats NPR.
Kwame’s a fan of BBC Radio. A former NPR purist, now I see the light! Only on BBC can you hear non-stop current political news, mixed with musings on art and poetry, mixed with quirky celebrations of root vegetables.
6. Nebraska is full of cookie-makers.
Wow, the number of cookies we were given by librarians! My favorite was the apple rum cookie made by Gail Dunkle’s daughter.
7. I can, in fact, read to nobody.
Well, not nobody; in Beatrice the head librarian was kind enough to be an all-in-one enthusiastic audience. Even though no one else showed up, I enjoyed reading two poems from the journal, including one I’ve never read aloud before. May the stakes always feel so low so I can take necessary risks!
8. Libraries are beautiful.
These are no ordinary buildings. Mission-style woodwork, high ceilings with exposed beams, pillars, skylights…
9. God bless short hums after poems.
Thanks to those audience members who hummed in delight when I read the work of Sharon Olds, Fleda Brown, Danielle Sellers, Denise Duhamel, and Stephen Ajay. I love these poems, too!
10. Ten is a magic number.
It turns out this is the number of library stops we could make before a winter storm caught up with us and prevented two of our 12 stops. Who ever heard of a top-twelve list anyway?