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Nebraska state poet's poem gets national attention after Capitol riots
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Nebraska state poet's poem gets national attention after Capitol riots

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A poem by Nebraska state poet Matt Mason about political violence found a broad national audience after being published by the New York Times on Sunday — even though it was written three years ago.

At the time he wrote it, Mason said the political climate made him feel uncomfortable because of its aggressive nature. But he filed the poem away until a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol last week and the poem became more relevant. 

“The Start” is about how seemingly small speeches or actions that are fueled by hatred will lead to aggressive behavior, such as riots. Mason repeats the phrase "it probably started" throughout his poem to convey that message.

Nebraska officials say they're aware of potential for armed protest at Capitol this weekend

“It’s seemed like we were going more and more with the (hateful) language and never hitting the point of saying, ‘This is too far,’” he said. “And if that point never gets hit, the violence is inevitable.”

Mason sent the poem to a contact at the New York Times and now it's been seen thousands of times on the newspaper's website, according to Mason. 

“If I sell 10,000 copies of a book, I’ve done really well,” he said. “They told me mid-afternoon that the link to my poem had been clicked on something, like, 20,000 times. It’s like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’”

He hopes his poem will change people’s minds about the current political climate, referencing people who have excused the actions of those who stormed the Capitol. 

“I think we need people to not just recognize how far things have gone, but change their minds about what they thought about it previously,” he said. 

Mason has been the state poet for two years. In his role, he advocates for local poets and has tried to host a poetry event in each Nebraska county. He also works at the Nebraska Writers Collective and has published three books. 

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Contact the writer at eseline@journalstar.com or 402-473-7223

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