Poetry Friday: Prairie Poems for Children

I’ve spent most of my years in Canada living in the prairie provinces of Alberta and Manitoba.  So I was quite delighted to hear about a poetry book for children about the prairies called From the Top of a Grain Elevator by poet Barbara Nickel (illus. by Kathy Thiessen.)  Nickel takes the reader through four seasons of prairie living in poems written in various forms such as the tanka and the sonnet.  Quintessential prairie experiences such as picking saskatoon berries, going to the lake, harvesting grain and skating on sloughs make up this delightful collection.

Nickel grew up in the small Saskatchewan town of RosthernFrom the Top of a Grain Elevator records her memories of those growing up years where the “seasons cycled around like the ferris wheel.”  The title of the book stems from Nickel’s perception that the tallest thing in the prairie landscape — the once ubiquitous grain elevator — was witness to the seasonal scenes and events she writes about.  The title in part also pays homage to this fading architectural legacy.  So many grain elevators have been torn down this last decade as the poem “Up with the Grain” records:

Today I watched them knock
our town’s grain elevator down.

Clouds of dust, pile of rubble
where it once stood
like a white, wooden soldier
beside the railroad tracks,
Melthern in black across its middle.

How did the seasons pass in your childhood landscape?  And how do they pass for your children now?  Are there poems that you know about that celebrate these memories?  From the Top of a Grain Elevator is a wonderful poetic treat for anyone who grew up in the Canadian prairie like I did.  I’m glad I heard about this book!

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Today’s Poetry Friday host is Tabatha A. Yeats.

6 Responses to “Poetry Friday: Prairie Poems for Children”

  1. Mary Lee Says:

    I grew up on the prairie of eastern Colorado. There was (and is still) a grain elevator at the end of my street! I think I need this book of poems!!!

  2. laurasalas Says:

    I grew up in Florida, with no grain elevators and no seasons! (So glad to live in Minnesota now.) This looks like a great collection–I’m a sucker for poems about the seasons, I admit. Swing Around the Sun (by Barbara Juster Esbensen) is one of my favorites.

    Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Andromeda Jazmon Says:

    I grew up in the suburbs of Philly and Cleveland. I can’t think of a collection of poems about those places off hand. But jump rope chants, tree houses, Barbie dolls, and summer picnics of P B & J with kool-aid taken under a chestnut or maple tree about sums it up. This poem book about the prairie sounds great. I love that cover.

  4. susan Says:

    I grew up in Detroit. Music and culture shaped my formative years and yes, there are some poems that encapsulate how I remember my childhood.

    The passing of things is an extended metaphor for me today. Tomorrow we bury a loved one and I’m thinking how much we took having family around for granted. At times I feel like we are crashing down. Thank you for something that makes me smile even when I sad

  5. Joanne Epp Says:

    I, too, grew up in Rosthern, and reading these poems is like going back there. I just read “Caraganas,” which has a line about sucking the nectar from caragana flowers. That’s always been a springtime treat for me, too.

  6. Sally Says:

    Wow, thanks all for telling me where you grew up. I can just imagine the ‘music’ of the seasons that pass through your locales (except maybe for Florida!) I’ll have to look up Swing Around the Sun, Laura. Hope it’s available at my library!