A Way with Words

Matt Mason ’90 is the Nebraska State Poet. He finds home in the state of Nebraska and on an empty page waiting to be written on.

A Way with Words
Home is open. Home is here. At least it is for Matt Mason ’90. Nebraska includes famous wide-open spaces and Western rock formations, and friends and family. What better to make a few lines sing? / Image courtesy iStock

Adoration. Confession. Supplication. Thanksgiving. These are the things we do in prayer, in meditative moments, in the spaces where we stop to think. They are also things Nebraska state poet Matt Mason ’90 does in stanzas, through pen on paper. His home state’s prairies and open spaces permeate his lines. These prayers are from a place, and a heart.

Mason takes to the role of Nebraska State Poet like pen to paper.

After all, poems are where Mason feels most at home, second only to Nebraska. It’s easy to find that evidenced in his pages. “For me, poetry acts as prayer,” Mason says. “It’s how I process and try to figure out the world around me. In that, writing is an expression of faith.” He’s true to himself in his poetry, be it about his family, God, or a recent shooting.


Nebraska State Poet Matt Mason ’90 speaks at an event. / Image courtesy Matt Mason

For Mason, writing is the truest form of self-expression. For that, he urges all of us to read and write more poetry, for our own good.

“Writing poetry is a way of spending time with our concerns, our joy, our dreams, our questions, taking them word by word to describe or explain. That kind of time helps us understand ourselves and the world better,” Mason explains. “And by reading poetry, we inhabit someone else’s ideas or stories or their confused jumble of emotional expression. It’s fun and important—we could really benefit from understanding those around us.”

When you read Mason’s poetry, it’s not a scrambled mind you enter. Mason lets his readers in on one of his great loves, his home state of Nebraska. As the state poet, he gives presentations, leads workshops, and provides outreach in schools and libraries throughout the state, which he thinks is the best part of the deal. “Nebraska is a place where experiences and places go beyond today and touch on other parts of my life, adding more to the poem. Everything about it is wonderful,” Mason says.

“I often want to ground a reader or listener in a place, as if they’re standing next to me, not just hearing me tell them something.”

And there are few images as vivid as when someone defines “home.”

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