From 1913 to 1941, Neihardt concentrated his artistic energies on writing A Cycle of the West, an epic poem about the American West composed of five separate songs. During these years, he developed the pattern of doing other kinds of writing to earn money and sometimes to acquire material, then allowing himself an extended period of time to work on his poetry. For example, Outing magazine commissioned The River and I. It was published separately as a first-person adventure or travelogue, but it also supplied a great deal of the background material for The Song of Hugh Glass (1915) and The Song of Three Friends (1919), which were the first two sections of A Cycle of the West. Neihardt's 1920 biography of Jedediah Smith (an earlier American explorer who was the first to cross the Sierra Nevada), The Splendid Wayfaring, provided material for
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honorary doctorate, Black Elk Speaks, Neihardt, Literary Editor, St. Louis PostDispatch, earlier American explorer