Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Prairie Reading at the Faulconer Gallery

Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College Libraries, and Prairie Studies co-hosted a thoroughly enjoyable event last Tuesday night (September 1) at the Faulconer Gallery. The reading celebrated the closing week of the Small Expressions and Beneath the Surface exhibitions that have been going on all summer and that include an array of visual representations of the prairie. We had thirteen participants reading and performing, students, faculty, and staff. I, for one,was inspired by the choices and the enthusiasm behind the choices, so I decided to share the program with the Grinnell Community. If you have a favorite text that represents the prairie or nature in some respect, please let us know at the Book Review (bookreview@grinnell.edu)--just send us the title 0r the title and a sentence or two description.

Dean Porter opened our program with a reading from Jacqueline Edmonson's Prairie Town: Redefining Rural Life in the Age of Globalization (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003). (HN79.M6+E36+2003). This is a contemporary study of conditions in the rural areas of the midwest.

Betty Moffett read an essay that she wrote about her own personal prairie, "My Prairie," and then sang a song, again her own composition, with Sandy Moffett and Mark Schneider, "Golden Iowa." Both her essay and song depict the peaceful beauty one can experience stepping off of the pavement and into the grasslands of Iowa. Betty's essay was published in Midwest Woodlands and Prairies and you can hear the Too Many String Band perform her songs at Sts. Rest Coffee House on the third Wednesday of every month.

Jacob Gjesdahl enthusiastically recommended The Emerald Horizon: the History of Nature in Iowa by Cornelia F. Mutel (University of Iowa Press, 2008). (QH 105.I8 M875 2008) Mutel describes the way the prairie tends to itself (if left to its own devices). Mutel's book seems to be one that can lead the reader to a deep appreciation of the subtle Iowa landscape. If you have friends or family who wonder how it is you live in the middle of the country surrounded by cornfields, this might be a good book to give them.

Mark Schneider read the poem "Soy Beans," by Alan Orr from Hammer in the Fog. Mark also sang (with Sandy and Betty!) the song "Roseville Fair" by singer Bill Staines. "Soy Beans" is a poem about the hardships of farming versus the different kind of risk taken by the speculator.

Katherine Vanney read from a childhood favorite, Laura Ingalls Wilder's By the Shores of Silver Lake.

Tilly Woodward read from the booklet of poems by Paula Smith and available at the gallery. The poems were "Rhizomes," "The Grassland," and "The Tallgrass on Fire."

Richard Fyffe read two of his own poems, “Peterson’s Guide (Only a God Can Save Us Now)” and “Like a Picture, or a Bump on the Head,” and “Prairie Proper” from Merrill Gilfillan's Rivers and Birds (Johnson Books, 2003).

Kayla Koether read from Kent Nerburn's Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder (New World Press 1994). Kayla's reading illustrated the perspectives and cultural orientation of native people on the prairie.

Rebecca Stuhr read a short poem by Gary Snyder, "It Pleases," and played two etudes for flute by Robert Wyckes, "The White Tailed Kite," and "The Marsh Hawk."

Hart Ford-Hodges read an excerpt from the text she'd used in a biology class, Konza Prairie: A Tall Grass Natural History by O. Reichman. (University of Kansas Press, 1987).
QH105.K3 R45 1987.

Catherine Rod read an excerpt from the writings of an early settler in Grinnell. You can find this memoir in the college archives and learn something about the unpredictability of Iowa weather and the boom town of Westfield.

Eliza Mutino read from the poet laureate, Ted Kooser, "So this is Nebraska," and "In the Corners of Fields."


Jon Andelson read an excerpt from a novel by Herbert Quick (Bobbs-Merrill, 1922.) Vandemark's Folly
PS3533.U53 V3. This excerpt celebrated the hard and sometimes miraculous work of the farmer, while at the same time mourning the loss of the prairie caused by the emergence of farmland.

You can see that the mixture of selections was eclectic. Each reading left me wanting to hear more from the poet or author or song writer ... You might want to investigate some of these readings as well, many of them are available in the libraries.

submitted by Rebecca Stuhr

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