The Top 12 Poets From South Dakota

Written by Dan

Teaching students about the rich literary heritage of South Dakota’s poetry can be a rewarding and fun experience. From vibrant haikus to beautiful sonnets, learning and drawing inspiration from these talented poets is great for all classrooms.

But with so many amazing writers to choose from in South Dakota, it may seem daunting trying to narrow down your selections. We’ve compiled a list of eighteen extraordinary poets from the state – join us as we explore their works and influences!

south dakota

1. Charles Badger Clark

Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957) was a renowned American poet with a friendly and engaging voice that resonated with his audience. He lived in the scenic Black Hills of South Dakota, which provided ample inspiration for his poetry. His work often reflected his love for the expansive landscapes and cowboy culture of the American West.

One of his most famous poems is “A Cowboy’s Prayer,” which beautifully encapsulates his passion for cowboy life. Clark favored writing narrative poems that painted vivid pictures of western life and nature.

2. Adrian C. Louis

Adrian C. Louis (1946–2018) was a celebrated Native American poet and writer. Born and raised on the Lovelock Paiute Indian reservation in Nevada, his background and experiences greatly influenced his poetry.

His work, such as his acclaimed poem “Evolution of a Skid Row Indian,” often confronted the struggles and injustices faced by Native Americans. Louis preferred writing raw, hard-hitting poetry that told the stories of his people in an honest and powerful way.

3. David Allan Evans

David Allan Evans, a native of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a well-known American poet. Like the celebrated poem “Buckeye,” his work often draws on his midwestern roots.

Evans’ poetry is inspired by the beauty of the Great Plains and his home state’s rich history and culture. He favored writing free verse poetry that captured the essence of the American Midwest in a relatable and engaging manner.

4. Lee Ann Roripaugh

Lee Ann Roripaugh is an esteemed poet hailing from Laramie, Wyoming. Her Japanese heritage and experiences growing up in Wyoming have greatly influenced her poetry. Her poem “Tsuki” embodies her unique style, combining Japanese elements with Western imagery.

Roripaugh favors writing lyrical and narrative poetry that explores themes of identity, heritage, and the intersection of different cultures.

5. Allison Hedge Coke

Allison Hedge Coke is a prolific American poet known for her evocative and insightful work. She spent her early life in North Carolina and later moved to the Great Plains, both of which greatly influenced her poetry.

Her poem “America, I Sing You Back” reflects her deep connection to the land and its history. Hedge Coke prefers writing narrative and lyric poetry that addresses environmental and social issues.

6. Kathy Lou Schultz

Kathy Lou Schultz is an innovative poet and scholar based in Philadelphia. Her work often challenges conventional ideas and encourages readers to think critically. One of her famous poems, “Monochrome,” showcases her pioneering approach to poetry.

Schultz favors writing experimental poetry that pushes boundaries and stimulates thought-provoking discussions.

7. Kathleen Norris

Kathleen Norris is a highly respected poet and essayist from South Dakota. Her work is deeply rooted in her Christian faith and the spirituality of the Great Plains. Her famous poem “Prairie Winter” beautifully illustrates these themes.

Norris favors writing contemplative poetry that explores spiritual themes and the human condition.

8. Margaret Hasse

Margaret Hasse is a distinguished American poet based in Minneapolis. Like the celebrated poem “In a Kitchen Where a Bird has Died,” her work often explores themes of loss, love, and the passage of time.

Hasse draws inspiration from her surroundings and personal experiences. She favors writing free verse poetry that engages readers with its depth of emotion and keen observations.

Mount Rushmore

9. John Wallace Crawford

John Wallace Crawford (1847–1917), also known as “Captain Jack,” was a Scottish-American poet and adventurer. He lived in the American West, which provided the backdrop for his exciting and often romanticized tales.

His famous poem “The Dying Cowboy” is a testament to his storytelling prowess. Crawford favored writing narrative poetry that brought the Wild West to life for his readers.

10. Joseph Hansen

Joseph Hansen (1923–2004) was a versatile American author, renowned for his mysteries and poetry. Born to a South Dakota shoemaker, he relocated to a California citrus farm with his family. Hansen’s work was groundbreaking in many ways, as he was known for a series of novels featuring private eye Dave Brandstetter, who was one of the first openly gay detectives in literature.

Hansen’s writing style was both dynamic and engaging, drawing readers into the world of his characters with ease. He wrote nearly 40 books in various genres but gained significant recognition for his Dave Brandstetter mystery novels, beginning with “Fadeout” in 1970. His work was not only entertaining but also served to challenge stereotypes and broaden societal perspectives.

11. Zitkala-Sa

Zitkala-Sa (1876–1938), whose name means “Red Bird” in the Lakota language, was a notable Native American writer, musician, and political activist. Her powerful writing and advocacy work made her a significant figure in the push for Indigenous rights in the United States.

Her storytelling often drew from her experiences and cultural heritage, weaving traditional Native American stories with personal narrative to create a rich tapestry of Indigenous life. Her work continues to be celebrated for its lyrical power and its role in preserving and promoting Native American culture and history.

12. L. Frank Baum

L. Frank Baum (1856–1919) was an influential American author, best known for his children’s books, particularly “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. Born in New York, Baum had a vivid imagination, which he used to create fantastical worlds that continue to enchant readers of all ages.

His most famous creation, the magical Land of Oz, has become a staple of American literature and pop culture. Through his imaginative storytelling, Baum not only entertained readers but also subtly commented on social and political issues of his time. His legacy lives on, not just through his work, but also through numerous adaptations and reimaginings of his stories.

The Flourishing Poetry Scene in South Dakota

South Dakota, often recognized for its picturesque landscapes and rich history, also boasts a vibrant poetry scene. The state is home to many esteemed poets whose work reflects this region’s unique culture and experiences.

From Charles Badger Clark, South Dakota’s first Poet Laureate, to contemporary poets like Lee Ann Roripaugh and Christine Stewart-Nuñez, South Dakota has nurtured diverse poetic voices.

The South Dakota State Poetry Society plays a significant role in fostering the writing and publication of poetry by South Dakota writers. This organization encourages high school students to learn about poetry and promotes excellence in the craft.

They even publish an anthology called “South Dakota In Poems,” which features works from various local poets, including Stewart-Nuñez and Michael Welsh.

Similarly, the South Dakota Arts Council encourages high schoolers to delve into poetry through their free program, Poetry Out Loud. Such initiatives help cultivate the next generation of poets and keep the art of poetry alive and thriving in the state.

As we conclude our poetic journey, it’s clear that South Dakota’s literary landscape is as diverse and captivating as its physical one. From the stirring verses of Native American poet Zitkala-Sa, to the contemporary nuances of Lee Ann Roripaugh, these poets offer a wealth of inspiration for students and readers alike.

They’ve used their voices to capture the essence of life, express profound emotions, and provoke thought – truly embodying the spirit of poetry.

By introducing these poets in classrooms, we not only honor their contributions but also inspire the next generation of writers. After all, who knows? The next great South Dakota poet could be sitting in your classroom right now!

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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