The Farmer’s Wake

It happened the  Fall of 2012.

 The first time I  read a  poem  that  I instantly connected with.

Heck, it was the first time I’d ever connected w/ a poem, period.

I mentioned recently, I live in the Hinterlands far from the cultural centers  of today.

Just for the record, what I’m about to tell you  does not change any of that. 😉

Ann Maren-Hogan  (like Grant Wood)  grew up 15 miles from my place.  She has done with words what Grant Wood did with paint and canvas, ie.  both taking their inspiration from the rugged, earthy beauty of  the Midwest.

Here is a little blurb on the back cover of her  book of poems called The Farmer’s Wake :

“I can feel the grit of dust and crunch of downed cornstalks in these poems.  They are not nostalgic ditties, but instead are strong songs, often in a haunting minor key, that remove me to a time when many footsteps, from many families, from many homes, sounded on the Midwestern farm scape.”


The Farmer’s Wake

It’s the third night of his wake,

all nine of his children in line to hold

the hand of the next neighbor or cousin, to hold

their shoulders, to steady themselves in this earthquake,

of letting their father slip into the barren January night.


Each farmer’s hand feels like it could be his, solid,

calloused, oversized,  able.  His grip steadied mourners here,

a pivotal storyteller at wakes, dredging up tales from the fields,

from the years during the war, when farm boys like him were

exempt.  He could resurrect the one lying in the casket till

he was full flesh among us.


Tonight the stories are about him, his hands stroking

the backs of the work horses,

how he always cried when he spoke of his mother,

the way he sang in the stairwells, pickup trucks, booming

songs around the piano every Sunday.


The hands keep reaching out night after night of this wake

strengthening mine so I can lower him into the hillside with

Great-Grandfather from Tipperary, Grandmother from

Rosecommon, lie him down here with all

the faithful caretakers of green fields,

stretching out

like fingers from this hill.


I (DM) knew Anne’s father just a little.  Maybe that’s why I connect so strongly with many of her poems, although I don’t think so.

If you’d like to get a copy of Anne’s book The Farmer’s Wake, you can pick yourself up a copy here, on Amazon.

Took this picture looking at the field to the South of our home:


Corn stalk bales on a Fall evening


Tell me about a writer or poet you connect with (and why)  Feel free to share a portion of their work on your comment if you want. 🙂


This entry was posted in faith, farming, Iowa, life in the country, personal, random, relationships, spirituality, Uncategorized, wisdom and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Farmer’s Wake

  1. Honey and Salt by Carl Sandburg, (and I’m writing this while warming my toes, dreading going back to my frozen muddy trench to wrestle with electrical conduit)

    “Bidden or unbidden? how comes love?
    Both bidden and unbidden, a sneak and a shadow,
    a dawn in a doorway throwing a dazzle
    or a sash of light in a blue fog,
    a slow blinking of two red lanterns in river mist
    or a deep smoke winding one hump of a mountain
    and the smoke becomes a smoke known to your own
    twisted individual garments:
    the winding of it gets into your walk, your hands,
    your face and eyes.”
    Thank you for taking the time out of that grueling morning to post that excerpt from Sandburg. I could totally imagine you sitting there, feet cold and wet from laboring in that trench, taking the time to pause, drink a cup of coffee, read a blog post and recite a little Sandburg. What a hearty soul you are 😉 Good to hear from you Michael! DM

  2. shoreacres says:

    “The Farmer’s Wake” is a fine poem. It’s hard to capture such experiences without becoming maudlin or sentimental. There was another poet who was in residence, as they say, when I was in school in Cedar Falls. I’m going to have to see if I can unearth his name, and then his poetry. He was an Iowan, too, as I recall. I wasn’t interested enough in poetry at the time to really pay attention to the things he told us, but I suddenly feel the need to go back. If I can find him, I’ll let you know.

    Poetry’s a strange thing. I connect so strongly with T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” but you can keep J. Alfred Prufrock and “The Wasteland.” In many cases, only one of two poems from a given poet really catch my attention. Sometimes, I even conclude that this or that poem from a celebrated poet is truly terrible. I don’t feel guilty about that, either. Writing poetry’s like farming. There are good years and bad, even when the same farmer’s plowing the field.

    I love how you put it : “Writing poetry’s like farming. There are good years and bad, even when the same farmer’s plowing the field.” I’d read something similiar about out of the hundreds of thousands of words he cranked out, there was a lot of “chaff”. DM

  3. Billy says:

    Thanks for sharing that moving poem. It reminds me of the poetry of Kay Ryan. As a former English major, I sometimes return to poetry for the beauty and the balance that it can bring to my life. One problem with modern life may be that we don’t think poetically enough. And you don’t need to be a poet to do that.
    like how you said that...”I sometimes return to poetry for the beauty and the balance that it can bring to my life.” DM

  4. BeeHappee says:

    This is my kind of poem. I like most from Hayden Carruth, and much from Wendell Berry. That is the poetry grounded deeply in earth and yet so full of feeling. A bit higher over the earth floats Mary Oliver. I like Neruda for pure love and most of the Sufi mystics for the light, and also Bukowski for sheer rawness of life yet so on point. Poetry feels to come and go in phases. In teenage years I could live on Pushkin alone, now his poetry does not do much for me, except for the beautiy of Russian when read in original. I like Gary Snyder a lot, which then brings us to some good Zen poems. I was hooked on Snyder for a while.
    Oh, now you got me wanting to go check out more poetry. 🙂

    • DM says:

      I was hoping you’d like that poem. From the things you’d mentioned earlier, I was thinking you might. Isn’t it neat how we can nudge each other on this way, you inspire me to write a poem..I inspire you to want to read more poetry,etc.

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