From Farm to Poems

Robin Helmuth

What do field ditches full of overgrown milkweed, backyard clotheslines, room temperature milk, wild Dutch blitz games, a love of root cellars, unavoidably dusty barn lofts, or a supper table surrounded by cousins and neighbors’ kids as well as one’s own have in common?   Perhaps a frequent rural northern Indiana farm setting!

In her latest major publication, Shari Wagner (Poet Laureate of Indiana 2016-2017) has compiled an intentional book of poems entitled, The Farm Wife’s Almanac.  Yes, an almanac!  A handbook of sorts, published to contain information of general interest or on a pastime.  Through the perspective of a fictional farm woman, Shari shares and preserves many of her family stories, pays tribute to a beloved aunt and other persons who have been formative in her life, honors the role of strong farm women, and brings attention to the plight of the family farm.  In many ways, this book of poems allows Shari to pay homage to places and traditions dear to her in rural LaGrange County, an area where many of her relatives live and that she has visited since childhood. Through these poems, you can discover why the farm wife never locks her door, why she carries a buckeye in her purse, and why she directs visitors to the Skunk Woman of Howe. Hear tell of how the farm wife and her husband met through Walk-a-Mile, a Mennonite dating game. Or visit the Menno-Hof Museum and anxiously await the outcome of the historic Palm Sunday tornados!

The almanac has a circular theme, with numerous sections, including such entries as oddities and pastimes.  For those with a curiosity about life on a farm, those who have lived in rural parts, those with a yen for short stories, poetry or who simply want to learn about rural people and Mennonites, this book will certainly captivate you.  With approximately 116 pages and under $14, this book is perfect for short sessions, pondering, or longer reads. It can be read by section without a loss of context, as each poem is also a work of its own.  You will not want to miss this imaginative, yet, vividly realistic collection of poems!  What a great birthday gift or stocking stuffer for a friend or for you. 

Poems in this book have been published in the Christian Century or read by Garrison Keillor during the September 7, 2019 and July 2, 2010 installments of The Writer’s AlmanacThe Farm Wife’s Almanac is available through Cascadia Publishing or multiple online media outlets, and Shari has a handful in her car for sale.  For a great sampler, click one or both of the links below.

http://www.garrisonkeillor.com/radio/twa-the-writers-almanac-for-september-7-2019/

https://www.christiancentury.org/contributor/shari-wagner

Special thanks to Shari Wagner for graciously allowing me to interview her for this article.

Robin lives in Indianapolis with Deb and within 40 minutes of their daughter, son in-law and two granddaughters, as well as their son and daughter in-law. Robin relishes hiking at a local park or having one or both granddaughters for a sleepover at “Papaw and Nana’s house.” In his spare time, Robin fills in as a pathologist for his group, does volunteer electrical or plumbing handyman jobs, volunteers as a Spanish interpreter at a local elementary school, visits his parents, or pedals one of his bicycles.



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