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 Rosthern. From 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!
Today’s Poetry Friday host is Tabatha A. Yeats.