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Boomtown: A prairie capital

James Engelhardt, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


“Boomtown,” a collection of poems by James Engelhardt, explores the landscape, culture, and non-human nature of Lincoln, NE from deep pre-history to the contemporary era. Based on research into the history and ecology of the city, “Boomtown”’s early sections resist the familiar first-person narrative in favor of descriptive lyric, short narrative, and persona poems. The collection rejects boosterism and teleology by focusing on marginalized populations and settings, including non-human nature, immigrants, women and men, and domestic life (many poems rely on recipes as an organizing principle). Major events and figures are touched on, often as a frame within which a more intimate scene takes place. By the final section, the reader has a context for contemporary life in the city. The introduction, “Ecology of a Boomtown,” describes the research process and situates the poems in the developing fields of ecopoetics and ecocriticism. The ideas of scholars such as Joni Adamson, Leonard Scigaj, David Gilcrest, Scott Bryson, Neil Evernden, Leslie Paul Thiele, and Glen Love are used to develop and extend the place- and nature-based poetry of “Boomtown” beyond the nature writing tradition. The ecopoetry of the collected poems relies on fiction, an understanding of interdependence between human and non-human, and a respect for deep history. The introduction also notes poetic influences ranging from mid-twentieth century poets Muriel Rukeyser and William Carlos Williams to germinal ecological poets such as Gary Snyder and Simon Ortiz, and from fairly formal poets such as W.S. Merwin, and William Stafford to the more experimental contemporary poets Arthur Sze and Brenda Hillman, among others. By taking on one small city in the middle of the country, “Boomtown” deepens our understanding of life in the last century and a half. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Modern|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Engelhardt, James, "Boomtown: A prairie capital" (2010). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3407858.