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Verna Lee Linxwiler Hinegardner was appointed the poet laureate of Arkansas in 1991 by Governor Bill Clinton and held the post until 2003. In addition to writing and publishing her own poetry, she was active in many literary societies and activities that promote a greater appreciation of poetry.
Verna Lee Linxwiler was born on January 2, 1919, in Morrisonville, Illinois, to Fred and Retta (Hendricks) Linxwiler. Her father was a farmer. She graduated from Lichfield Community High School in 1936 and attended Lincoln Junior College in Lincoln, Illinois. She married Marshall Andrew Hinegardner on December 12, 1937. The couple had three daughters.
After World War II, the Hinegardners lived in Meridian and Vicksburg, Mississippi, before moving to Hot Springs (Garland County) in 1953. Verna Lee Hinegardner was employed by the U.S. Forest Service as a land management technician in the Hot Springs office of the supervisor of the Ouachita National Forest and traveled throughout the twelve districts in its jurisdiction. She retired in 1981.
Hinegardner began writing as a young child; her first published poem was in the Baptist Junior World when she was nine years old. She continued to write and began to enter literary contests, later serving as sponsor and judge. In the 1960s, however, she began a more systematic study of the art and craft of poetry in literary groups, conferences, and workshops. She also took courses in writing at Garland County Community College (now National Park College). She was a charter member of theHot Springs chapter of Poets’ Roundtable of Arkansas, organized in 1967.
In the 1960s, Hinegardner created a new poetical form, the “minute,” which is a sixty-syllable, twelve-line poem in strict iambic meter. The syllable count is 8, 4, 4, 4, 8, 4, 4, 4, 8, 4, 4, 4; and the lines are rhymed a, a, b, b, c, c, d, d, e, e, f, f. The minute is capitalized and punctuated like prose and captures a slice of life. The titles of some of her collections indicate her most common themes and poetic treatment—a love of nature, strong family ties and other relationships—and a wry sense of humor: The Ageless Heart (1974), Mud and Music (1976), One Green Leaf (1978), and Seven Ages of Golf (For Women) (1980).
She received many national, state, and regional prizes and awards. She was a member of the Poetry Society of America and the International Poetry Society and was president of the Arkansas Pioneer branch of the National League of American Pen Women. She served as secretary, chancellor, and treasurer in the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS) and was the chairman of the NFSPS national conventions in Hot Springs in 1977 and North Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1995. In 1991, she was inducted into the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame.
In 2003, Governor Mike Huckabee named a new poet laureate, Peggy Vining of Little Rock (Pulaski County). Apparently, he was unaware that the poet laureateship was considered a life appointment. A small storm of publicity resulted, but in the end, the appointment stood. Hinegardner said that she was resolved to “behave like a lady” through the whole episode, and she continued to pursue her activities in poetry organizations and contests.
In 2005, she published her twelfth collection of poems, I Own One Star. She also edited a poetry column, “Kaleidoscopes,” which ran in the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record every week for twenty-two years. In addition, her work appeared in anthologies of the Arkansas Poets’ Roundtable and Golden Years, Mid-South Review, Tennessee Voices, Midwest Review, and other magazines and collections. Hinegardner was also appointed the contest chairman for the sixtieth annual observance of National Poetry Day in Arkansas.
Hinegardner died on October 4, 2012, at her residence in Conway. Her body was cremated.
For additional information:
Harris, Becky. “Conway Writer at Age 92 Continues to Write Winning Poetry.” Log Cabin Democrat. November 6, 2011. Online at http://thecabin.net/news/local/2011-11-06/conway-writer-age-92-continues-write-winning-poetry (accessed November 7, 2011).
“Verna Lee Hinegardner (Biographical Statement).” In I Own One Star. Sioux Falls, SD: Pine Hill Press, 2005.
Ethel C. Simpson
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Last Updated 12/7/2016
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