Woiwode known as a good colleague, teacher

Larry Woiwode, North Dakota poet laureate, passed away April 28. He was 80.

North Dakota poet laureate Larry Woiwode, 80, passed away April 28. He was the recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, the state’s highest citizen honor, in 1992.
Contributed / Larry Woiwode

JAMESTOWN – Larry Woiwode, the state poet laureate, was a good colleague, teacher and a good man, according to his friends and colleagues.

“When Larry was with us (University of Jamestown), he was a staunch supporter for the liberal arts in general, for writing and literature in particular,” said Paul Olson, provost at the University of Jamestown. “He was a student favorite. He inspired a lot of students and helped a lot of students learn how to write very well.”

Woiwode passed away April 28. He was 80.

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

Woiwode taught English composition courses, upper division creative writing classes and also literature courses at the University of Jamestown, Olson said. He was at the University of Jamestown from 2007 to 2020.


“We at UJ will always appreciate what he did for us over his 13 years with the university as the writer in residence,” he said.

Woiwode also edited UJ’s Plainsong magazine.

“He really did an admirable job with Plainsong in terms of soliciting not just faculty contributions to it but student contributions to it as well,” Olson said.

He was appointed the state poet laureate in 1995. As state poet laureate, Woiwode was someone who elevated poetry, which is an arts discipline that is not often well regarded, said Kim Konikow, executive director of North Dakota on the Council Arts.

“So the very fact that you name someone to this position and then they participate in activities utilizing poetry is important to the arts,” she said.

Woiwode was born in 1941 in Carrington near his hometown in Sykeston. His family moved to Illinois in 1950.

He began his writing career in New York City and by 1966 his stories and poetry were published in The New Yorker. His work also appeared in The Atlantic, Esquire, Harper’s and The Paris Review.

Gov. Doug Burgum said in a statement that Woiwode inspired and mentored many writers during his 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.”

Woiwode lived on a farm near Mott, North Dakota. Woiwode appreciated nature and the rural countryside and was helpful, creative and very down to earth, said Jenny Eikamp, his friend and neighbor.

“It’s going to be a loss for us,” she said. “He was a good one.”

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.

Services for Woiwode were held May 3 at New Hope Free Lutheran Church in Jamestown.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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