Anna Nash Yarbrough (1897–1993)
Anna Idelle Nash Yarbrough was a prolific author and internationally recognized poet from El Dorado (Union County). She wrote for many publications, including the Arkansas Democrat, the Arkansas Gazette, and the Benton Courier, from the early 1930s until her death in 1993. She wrote one book of poetry, Flower of the Field (1962), and three books on the mechanics of poetry: Building with Blocks: How to Write Poetry with the Easy Block System (1965), Poetry Patterns (1968), and Syllabic Poetry Patterns (1978). She also co-authored a book of poetry, Laurel Branches (1969).
Anna Idelle Nash was born on January 19, 1897, in El Dorado to Jessie Lee Cook Nash and Lelus Mecanlus Nash. Her paternal grandparents were also literary figures, as her grandmother Anna Grissom Nash was a respected poet and her grandfather Ithey Nash was publisher for the Gurdon Cannon Ball. Her father was editor of a newspaper in Junction City (Union County).
Nash graduated from El Dorado High School in 1915 and went on to what is now Henderson State University in Arkadelphia (Clark County). Her first published poem, “Glass House,” appeared in June 1932 under the name “Idelle Shaver” (Shaver was her married name at this time) in American Author magazine.
Her first husband was Freeman Shaver; they had two sons, Freeman Jr. and Samuel L., and one daughter, Jessie Lou. Her second husband was Jonathan Byron Yarbrough, who worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad as a clerk. Like her, he was involved with several writers’ groups. They had one daughter, Janet Louise. Jonathan had a son, Jonathan Jr., from a previous marriage.
Yarbrough began writing prose during the Great Depression to supplement her family’s income, and for the next twenty years she raised her children and one grandchild, David Terry Hughes. Reportedly, she spent eight hours a day at her typewriter. At that time, she did freelance work for confession magazines and for religious publications. Her first featured story appeared in the Arkansas Gazette in 1944, and by 1945, she had her own column called “Arkansas Folks.” She was an early member of the Arkansas Pioneer Branch of the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW) and assisted in the creation of the first Arkansas Writers’ Conference (AWC) at what is now the University of Central Arkansas (UCA).
In 1946, Yarbrough began writing her “Highways and Byways” column in the Arkansas Democrat. She edited the “Poets’ Forum” in the Benton Courier for more than twenty years. Her first book of poetry, Flower of the Field, was published in 1962 by the Triangle Publishing Company of Dallas, Texas. In the Arkansas Gazette, she said the book’s title was chosen because, “That’s what I am.” The introduction was written by Rosa Zagnoni Marinoni, who was poet laureate of Arkansas at the time.
Her next book was an instructional manual called Building with Blocks: How to Write Poetry with the Easy Block System, published in 1965 by Triangle. She later published two more manuals: Poetry Patterns (Triangle, 1968) and Syllabic Poetry Patterns (Quality Printing Company of Benton, 1978). In 1969, she published Laurel Branches (Triangle), a collection of poems in tribute to her grandmother Anna Grissom Nash. The book was co-authored with her sister Sybill Nash Abrams and brother Lelus Benjamin Nash.
In 1971, Governor Dale Bumpers was given the opportunity to choose Arkansas’s new poet laureate after the death of Marinoni in 1970. The finalists were Anna Nash Yarbrough, Lily Peter, and Ercil Brown. On October 6, 1971, Governor Bumpers announced he had chosen Peter. Yarbrough was inducted into the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame in 1990, two years after Peter. Her name is listed in Who’s Who of American Women; Who’s Who, International Poetry; The Dictionary of International Biography in London; and in Who’s Who in Arkansas Arts and Crafts.
Anna Yarbrough died on December 15, 1993. Her husband had died on Christmas Day a decade before. She is buried next to him at Smith-Rosemont Cemetery in Benton.
For additional information:
“Anna Nash Yarbrough.” Find-a-Grave.com. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/25055069/anna-yarbrough (accessed December 12, 2018).
Cope, Gladys Powell. “Benton’s Anna Nash Yarbrough—She’s an Arkansas Writer’s Writer.” Arkansas Gazette, February 6, 1966, p. 5E.
Smith, Judy. Saline County Women 150 Years. Benton: Arkansas Business Women’s Association, Pine Cone Chapter, 1986.
“Three Poets Collaborate in Tribute to Anna Nash.” Arkansas Gazette, July 26, 1970, p. 9E.
Cody Lynn Berry
Last Updated: 01/31/2020