I am delighted to find my poem among those chosen to encourage Nebraska readers next year. My poem? The ever popular "Pricksong." It's in Nebraska Presence: An Anthology of Poetry, edited by Greg Kosmicki and Mary K. Stillwell.
This anthology as been chosen by One Book One Nebraska. It selects literary works for Nebraskans to read and discuss, featuring books with an Nebraska author or Nebraska theme or setting. Last years' choice, for instance, was John Neihardt's Black Elk Speaks.
And this year's: Nebraska Presence.
Am I in good company. The poetry anthology features more than 80 contemporary Nebraska poets, including Ted Kooser, Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate of the United States, William Kloefkorn and Twyla Hansen, both Nebraska State Poets. It also features poets—Greg Kuzma, Marjorie Saiser, Grace Bauer, and Greg Kosmicki—who had their poems read on Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac. Widely noted poets Hilda Raz, Roy Scheele, Steve Langan, and many others grace its pages.
What do Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame and my mother, both dead now, have in common?
Not much, but my surprise is that they share anything at all.
Hefner's mother, Grace, was born in Holdrege, Nebraska, population these days about 5,000, and home of The Nebraska Prairie Museum.
My mother lived 24 miles south of Holdrege in Alma, Nebraska, home to about 1,000. Dad, in his trucking days, had an office in Holdrege. Mom piped carloads of stuff into its Nebraska Prairie Museum, a higher class museum than any in Alma's Harlan County.
One day, wandering around the Museum I noticed a doll's wicker carriage that looked like one I had as a child. Curious, I read the tag. My name was on it—one more item Mom had loaded into the museum.
But none of this has anything to do to with Hugh Hefner.
What does connect the Hefners and the Coffeys is this: Over the years, the Hefner family donated $181,000 to the Holdrege Memorial Homes, a nursing and assisted living center at 1320 11th Avenue. This home is where my mother chose to live in her later years.
Granted, Hugh Hefner and mom's ties aren't close, but even this intimacy would have upset my mother. She looked way down her nose at Hefner and his Playboy Club with its naughty girls, just as she looked down her nose at my sexually explicit novel Marcella.
So I suppose I could say Hefner and I have more in common than he and my mother. But I won't say that. I can't have her turning over in her grave.