(Neb.)-Chadron State College Professor Publishes Second Poetry Book
(CHADRON)-One of Chadron State College’s professors has released a new book. Robert F. McEwen’s latest book, “Casey Joe MacBride’s White River, Volume I,” conveys the distinctiveness of the Pine Ridge region through an uncommon form--blank verse poetry. It is being released this month by Stephen F. Austin University Press in Nagadoches, Texas.
“The writing had to flow like the river,” said McEwen, a longtime professor of English and humanities at Chadron State College. “And blank verse, along with some prose poetry, seemed like the best medium to carry the flow of the White River. I want people who read this book and who live outside the area to be able to understand the historical and current ways of life here in this borderland.”
“Casey Joe MacBride’s White River, Volume I” is available to purchase at amazon.com and the Chadron State College bookstore. McEwen will have two public readings at the Chadron Public Library later this month. He’ll read on Thursday, Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m. and on Saturday, Sept. 27 at 3:30 p.m.
“Casey Joe MacBride’s White River, Volume I” is McEwen’s second book of poetry. “Heartwood,” another book-length narrative poem in blank verse, was published in 1994. McEwen has also had numerous poems published in a variety of books and journals throughout his career, along with a Reader’s Choice award from the Prairie Schooner for his poem “Old Rags and Iron.”
“If you’ve a love of the rhythm of the Gaelic balladeer, McEwen’s poetry will play you like a lyre,” said Mike Cartwright, former dean and professor of English at Chadron State.
While “Heartwood” dealt primarily with tree trimmers in Illinois as well as the Pine Ridge region, “Casey Joe MacBride’s White River, Volume I” is a collection of first-person reminiscences by Casey Joe MacBride, who grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota as well as Chadron, and is now a social studies teacher in eastern Nebraska. How his personal story became White River, the work, is the subject of McEwen’s introductory chapter, which explains how Frank Bear Killer, another former Chadron resident, played a role in bringing Casey Joe and McEwen together.
The novel chronicles some of Casey Joe’s most memorable experiences while growing up in the borderlands. McEwen, who met MacBride on several occasions in North Platte to generate material for the narrative, said he wrote the first two drafts in longhand. Following the initial drafts, McEwen’s wife, Ann, and CSC student, Hannah Clarke, typed more drafts. It took nearly three years to complete. “Casey is satisfied with the outcome,” McEwen noted. “He had to give up a few things, and so did I, in order to make compromises.”
“Casey Joe MacBride’s White River” also features illustrations from Chadron artist Kit Watson. “The minute I had the skeleton of this I knew it had to be illustrated,” McEwen said. “I have known about Kit’s work for a long time and I’ve always been impressed with it. White River would be incomplete without it.”
McEwen said he is planning a second volume of MacBride’s reminiscences. In addition, McEwen said he is currently working on three other manuscripts, including a book on the death of Irish revolutionary Michael Collins.
--By Alex Helmbrecht, CSC Director of College Relations
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