Have you ever stood on a deserted family farm, wandering among knee-high grass? The foundations that were once a house. The somehow still-standing barn and silos and rusting equipment. Even for those, like me, who are generations removed from living and working and keeping it, the farm remains alive within the eyes of parents and grandparents who carry that farm with them in their blood and sweat and the vivid stories they have passed on, which tie us to a life that becomes as real to us as our own.
Following Hay evokes that life. This excellent collection of poetry gathers timeless threads of a rural life that form a bridge between past to present, old and young, boy and girl, sharing memories that are as real and solid as the pages of the book, and almost within reach. The overall sense of the book is one of nostalgia, bringing forth a life that is not perhaps idyllic or better than the present, but one that is, nonetheless, familiar and comforting, full of homemade music, the scent of hay, handmade quilts, horses, and well-spent youth.
Donna Emerson has crafted this nostalgia with precisely chosen words and carefully controlled lines, shaping an enduring vision of hay and horses and passing youth. Her language is simple and direct — no flowery verse here — only real, beautifully shaped language, the memories they carry achingly deep and real. Like most good poetry, it is rich with imagery, using vivid imagery to form a vision that, because of its clarity and precision, becomes universally accessible. You don’t need to have lived on that farm, yourself, to miss it, because Emerson’s voice brings those memories to life in the present. This is, simply put, good poetry.
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