Read My Book: Mitch Spray on The History of Naming Cows
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Sunday, December 1, 2013
Filed under: Read My Book
My first book of poetry explores the playfulness, the freedom, the moments of silence and the harsh realities of growing up on the farm. It gives a unique perspective on how the reality and perception of farm life rarely meet. A corollary is that the public’s perception of poetry and what my work embodies rarely meet either.
For poetry readers who do not have an agricultural background, my book will thrust them into foreign environs. My work is not mere appreciation for the beauty of nature but also an awareness of the life and death it contains. I have been asked if I’m a vegetarian after reading a poem about seeing an animal I named butchered as a child. I am not a vegetarian. Death and consumption are facts of life I have always known. It is through protecting life, and labouring for it, that we survive. The poems say it more subtly and are a less blunt tool than possible here.
My co-workers in the agriculture industry have commented that poetry is not their thing – a not uncommon sentiment – but when they read my poems they get it. This is the strength and the weakness of my work. The people who are most likely to enjoy the work are probably the least likely to pick it up. I address the ideas that farm people intimately understand but don’t really take the time to express. It is the common farm experiences I have encapsulated in my poems that speak to all the farm kids no matter what age.
The book is not only about farming but growing up on the farm. There are many poems about family and how the farm’s isolation forces family close. My siblings and I had many misadventures. This book isn’t just about the harshness of farm life but the rich and deep connections the farm forces upon people – the connections to place, family and animals. Animals and land are not merely victims of our emotional attachment but valued also for their usefulness in supporting the family. My book of poetry unites the utilitarian and emotional attachments of the farm reality.