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The Antelope

UNK virtually hosts Nebraska Book Award winner

America Harvest by Marie Mutsuki Mockett

UNK English Graduate Student

Marie Mutsuki Mockett is a writer who is not afraid of taking her work on the road, and for her latest book, “American Harvest: God, Country, and Farming in the Heartland,” she did just that. Thanks to the magic of Zoom, Mockett was able to travel to Kearney and speak with Brad Modlin’s creative writing students and others in the UNK community about “American Harvest,” her creative process, and how she approached some of the delicate conversations that emerged as she traveled with a crew of “custom wheat harvesters” from Texas to Idaho in the summer of 2017.

Modlin, a UNK English professor, introduced Mockett to an enthusiastic group of students by sharing some of the highlights of her impressive writing resume. He said that Mockett is not only someone who does a lot of writing but is an artist who does “a lot of listening” as well. That listening is a big part of what allows Mockett to enter and be welcomed into unfamiliar spaces. 

In addition to spending class time with a group of undergraduate writers, Mockett made a second online appearance, connecting from her home in San Francisco, to read from her latest book.

American Harvest opens with a reverent tribute to the people — the Native American tribes — who occupied the prairie long before the landscape was populated with the combines and silos that are now such familiar sights. She invites the reader into this world, describing in vivid detail the plants, animals and colors that can be observed and experienced in the heartland of America. 

Celebrating the unique feeling of a day spent under the wide-open prairie skies, she said, reading from American Harvest, “You can feel the vastness of the sky, the inch-by-inch eternity of a day.”

When it comes to her writing process, Mockett echoed the wisdom of poet Robert Frost. 

“I try, when I write, not to have a clear sense of precisely what it is I’m trying to do,” Mockett said. “If it’s not a discovery for me, then it won’t read like a discovery for the reader.” 

It is with this spirit of discovery that Mockett embarked on this journey, learning the ins and outs of harvesting wheat, immersing herself in the rhythms of rural America, and gaining insight into the evangelical Christian beliefs of her traveling companions.

Mockett holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Bennington Writer’s Seminars in Bennington, Vermont, and an undergraduate degree in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Columbia University. American Harvest is Mockett’s third book, and recently won a Nebraska Book Award in the Nonfiction Solidarity category. 

 Her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications including National Geographic magazine, The New York Times, Elle magazine and The Paris Review. She teaches creative writing for the Bennington Writing Seminars and is currently a visiting writer in the MFA program Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California.

UNK’s Visiting Writers Series is supported by an endowment from Paul and Clarice Reynolds.

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