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Larry Woiwode, North Dakota poet laureate, dies at age 80

A public memorial service will be scheduled at a later date.

North Dakota poet laureate Larry Woiwode.
Contributed / Larry Woiwode
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North Dakota poet laureate Larry Woiwode has died, according to his family.

A post on Ruth Woiwode's Facebook page said her father passed away on Thursday, April 28. He was 80.

The family said in a statement released Sunday evening that Woiwode passed away after a brief illness.

"Larry deeply loved North Dakota and was honored every day of the last 27 years to serve as its Poet Laureate," the statement said. "He touched innumerable lives through his writing, teaching, humor, and convictions. He was a beloved husband, father, brother, grandfather, and great-grandfather. "

A service is scheduled at 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 3, at New Hope Free Lutheran Church in Jamestown. A public memorial service will be announced at a later date.


Woiwode was the 1992 recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, the state’s highest citizen honor.

Gov. Doug Burgum released the following statement on Sunday on Woiwode’s passing:

“Larry Woiwode inspired and mentored countless writers during his long and distinguished career. Through it all, he always remembered his North Dakota roots, from serving as our state’s poet laureate since 1995 to conducting many classes and workshops for aspiring writers in his home state,” Burgum said. “His award-winning work earned widespread praise and instilled immense pride in his fellow North Dakotans. Kathryn and I extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends and all who found joy and inspiration in his writing.”

Woiwode was born in 1941 in Carrington, near his hometown of Sykeston. In 1950, his family moved to Illinois. His writing career began in New York City and by 1966 he was publishing stories and poetry in The New Yorker. His work also appeared in The Atlantic, Esquire, Harper's, and The Paris Review.

Woiwode’s novels included “What I'm Going To Do,” “I Think,” (1969), “Beyond the Bedroom Wall” (1975) and “Born Brothers” (1988), besides books of short stories, poetry and nonfiction. He was a Guggenheim Fellow, a John Dos Passos Prize winner, a recipient of the William Faulkner Foundation Award, and the Medal of Merit from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He also was a finalist for both the Book Critics Circle and the National Book Awards, and appeared in four volumes of Best American Short Stories.

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