Bill McCloud Earns Third Woody Guthrie Award

When  Bill McCloud returned from Vietnam, he began sorting out what to do with his life. His war experience, added to his love of history and affair with words, eventually coalesced into a life path.

A three-time winner of the Woody Guthrie Poet Award (2019, 2018, 2017), he is as plain as the red dirt of Oklahoma and as distinctive as the land rush that marked the territory called “Sooner State.” His poetry and nonfiction persuade readers to think, empathize, and reflect on just how the pivotal the decades of 1960-70 were and how they fit into the national fabric.

He earned undergraduate degrees from Northern Oklahoma College, Oklahoma State University, and a master’s from Northeastern State University. Pryor Junior High School, Pryor, Oklahoma, gave him classes to hone his teaching skills before he moved to Rogers State University in 2009.

The Smell of the Light: Vietnam, 1968-1969 (Balkan Press), a first book of poetry, is especially poignant. A tapestry of thoughts range over and around those Vietnam experiences. Here’s an example:

My Vietnam Experience

            I landed in Vietnam

            Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated

            Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated

            There was rioting at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago

            Students took over the administrative offices at Columbia University

            Catholic activists burned hundreds of files from a draft board in Maryland

            I left Vietnam

The book provides a slice of history and a sensitive collection of poetry.

His nonfiction assemblage of letters and essays, What Shall We Tell Our Children About Vietnam? (University of Oklahoma Press), pulled ideas from politicians, veterans, parents, nurses, and authors—those people whose lives were affected by the war. It contains hindsight, sorrow, reflection, and—sometimes—wisdom. At the time of the book’s publication in 1989, the Vietnam War was seldom taught as part of American history. Now, What Shall We Tell Our Children About Vietnam? often serves as a text.

You can read more about Bill McCloud on his website. His books can be ordered from Amazon.

McCloud’s poetry, papers, and writing are archived in the main library at Harvard University. His work can also be read on the walls of Tulsa Transit Metro. Gotta love the juxtaposition between those two honors.

I am especially grateful to Bill McCloud for reading my novel and writing a blurb for If You Walk Long Enough, scheduled for the shelves in 2021.


  1. Fascinating post. I was not familiar with Mr. McCloud or his work. I hope that history classes will start including more about the Vietnam war and how to changed the fabic of America and how we consider military actions in the future. Looking forward to the release of your novel.


  2. The poem encapsulates his experiences. The book of essays and the book of poetry are both spot on. I’m really honored Bill wrote a blurb for my novel, If You Walk Long Enough, scheduled to hit the shelves 2021.Thanks for your comment.


  3. Hello Nancy, I’m always eager to read poems which I have been ignorant of for too long. Thank you for sending this. And congratulations on his writing a blurb for your upcoming book!

    Warm regards, Joan

    Sent from my iPhone



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