Jim Reese at SMSU – Poems that open the door to the real little house on the prairie

Reading review from http://www.mariannezarzana.com (03.15.2011)

Jim Reese gave a terrific reading at SMSU tonight–beautiful, powerful poems, equal parts humor–about lingerie catalogs–and gut-punching pathos–about his work teaching prisoners writing. He read poems from his new book, ghost on 3rd (click on book title to read the review in the American Poetry Journal), brand new unpublished poems, and a rollicking new piece of non-fiction about budding teenage sexuality in all its steamy, innocent indoor-roller-rink glory.

Jim is the founder and editor of Paddlefish, a publication of Mount Marty College in Yankton, South Dakota.

Here’s a poem from the most recent issue of Paddlefish by Leo Dangel, beloved professor emeritus of SMSU. Leo always filled the house when he gave readings on campus–with faculty, students, staff, and people from the surrounding communities. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser wrote of Dangel’s book of collected poems, Home from the Field,
“These poems are warm and generous and perfectly formed to the mouths of the people who speak them.”

Independent Harvester

If our oats crop was ripe on the 4th of July,
there was no liberty for us. My father pulled
the grain binder out from its place under
a cottonwood tree, the sickle sharpened and fierce.

Our uniform was faded cotton and straw hats.
My mother drove the rusty tractor, and my father
operated the binder, the sickle rattling back
and forth, sounding like a machine gun,
mowing down the standing grain in its path.
My sisters and I set the bundles into shocks
that covered the field in rows of monuments.

No one thought of Washington or flags.
I remember how the water, kept cool
in a Mason jar under a shock, tasted,
how the stubble felt when it bent and broke
under my soles. The hemp twine that tied
our harvest together had a certain smell.

We saw the late sun slanting on the field.