Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School


First Advisor

Charles Woodard


Kloefkorn's poetry explores the relationship between people and their land, an integral part of the psyche of a people whose livelihood depends upon this relationship. His first book of poetry, Alvin Turner As Farmer, deals almost entirely with learning to live with the land instead of trying to dominate it. After writing poetry on other subjects, Kloefkorn returns to this theme in Platte Valley Homestead, his eleventh collection, as he incorporates both the river and the land as learning experiences for the Midwestern farmer. In other collections, he goes beyond farm people and writes of small-town life, especially as it affects boys and young men. But what about the Midwestern woman? She was there with the first settlers, crossing the prairie in a covered wagon. She fed and clothed her usually large family, and she worked side by side with her husband in the fields. She was responsible for the education and religious instruction of her children. She felt the harshness of the prairie, and sometimes she succumbed to the loneliness of life there. But she al so became aware of the beauty and fertility of the land. She planted large gardens in this soil and washed her family's clothing in the prairie's shallow creeks. Often, she literally was surrounded by the land if her home was a sod house, which was built into the creek's bank. She learned to live. in harmony with this land, and with this knowledge, she survived. Kloefkorn writes of the Midwestern woman in his poetry. Martha Turner knows the hardships and rewards involved with living on the land. Later Kloefkorn writes of Anna in Platte Valley Homestead. Anna is one generation away from the modern Midwestern woman, Doris, whom Kloefkorn creates in the volume Honeymoon. Kloefkorn also writes of his grandmother, a German immigrant, and of his mother in several poems. Even though he writes of ·many women, Kloefkorn always maintains his male point of view. This viewpoint enables the reader to trace the Midwestern woman's evolution, according to Kloefkorn, and in addition, to trace the maturation of Kloefkorn's male persona in his relationship to women. This study will focus first on Kloefkorn, the man, because most of his poetry comes from his personal experiences and attitudes. Then there will be an overall critique of each volume of his poetry. Since women have been especially influential in Kloefkorn's 1ife and have served as models for many of his poetic characters, this study will closely examine the female characters in his poetry. The woman's role in the male narrator's evolution, as well as the change in the female characters themselves, will be traced. The study will also note possible influences from William Faulkner and Mark Twain, two authors who Kloefkorn says have affected his writing. The emphasis of this study is on the women in Kloefkorn's poetry. His female persona develops from a symbolic Mother Earth figure to a complex, independent character. In addition, she has an important function in Kloefkorn's male persona's development. Kloefkorn confesses that ·his attitude toward women has changed since he began writing, and these changes can be traced in his poetry.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Kloefkorn, William -- Criticism and interpretation
Kloefkorn, William -- Characters -- Women
Women in literature



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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