What is it about the dust bowl that inspires people to poetry? There's Karen Hesse's award-winning book, Out of the Dust [J HES]. This novel-in-verse, with it's evocative and haunting poetry, won the 1998 Newbury Award. Here's a poem, dated July 1934:
I am awake now,
still shaking from my dream:
I was coming home
through the howling dust storm,
my lowered face was scrubbed raw by dirt and wind.
Grit scratched my eyes,
it crunched between my teeth.
Sand chafed inside my clothes,
against my skin.
Dust crept inside my ears, up my nose,
down my throat.
I shuddered, nasty with dust.
In the house,
dust blew through the cracks in the walls,
it covered the floorboards and
heaped against the doors.
It floated in the air, everywhere.
I didn't care about anyone, anything, only the piano. I
searched for it,
found it under a mound of dust.
I was angry at Ma for letting in the dust.
I cleaned off the keys
but when I played,
a tortured sound came from the piano,
like someone shrieking.
I hit the keys with my fists, and the piano broke into
a hundred pieces.
To read the rest borrow the book, or better yet, borrow the audiobook [J AB/CD HES] and listen to it being read. I'm sure you'll feel the grit between your teeth.
I was alerted to another work of this type called Rain: A Dust Bowl Story. This story, however, is not in traditional print. It appears online with a poem added each day. It have been ongoing since August.
A nice feature is that readers can contribute their "own personal observations of literature, history, and human nature. The author, Shelley Shaver, will visit the blog daily and respond." It's too bad that more people haven't taken advantage of this feature. The comments are few and far between. Thus, I'm featuring the site today in hopes that you'll visit it and comment.
Here's a sample from poem #10:
10. Spring 1934: Bird’s Eye View
As the crow flies,
Lots lay in a checkerboard
Below. One man’s boundary
Straight against the next,
Turn-row to turn-row,
Someone had a bigger loan.
Just hanging on.
All you had to do
Was work the land.
Read the rest here.
Anastasia Suen hosts the Poetry Friday Round-Up this week at Picture Book of the Day. Stop by!