Poems for the prairie

Words and photographs in praise of beautiful prairie landscapes

I've spent a lot of time in the prairie states of America this year. Growing up, I had a misperception that the prairie lands were uninteresting visually. Maybe my mistaken perception was based on the TV show "Little House on the Prairie," which I found too saccharin and pablum as a young boy. I was born in the Appalachian mountains, and even though my family moved away from there when I was young, the mountains were my idealized landscape.

Now I am an evangelist for the prairies. The wide open spaces and sweeping vistas are much more interesting to me than I could have imagined. Prairie landscapes feature a lot of texture and unexpected surprises for the intrepid explorer. 

Below are the words of some great poets written about prairie lands, along with new photographs I have taken of the beautiful prairie landscape. I hope you enjoy.

 


 

I hear the summer storm outblown—the drip of the grateful wheat.
I hear the hard trail telephone a far-off horse’s feet.
I hear the horns of Autumn blow to the wild-fowl overhead;
And I hear the hush before the snow. And what is that to dread?”

“Take heed what spell the lightning weaves—what charm the echoes shape—
Or, bound among a million sheaves, your soul shall not escape.
Bar home the door of summer nights lest those high planets drown
The memory of near delights in all the longed-for town.

Rudyard Kipling, excerpt from The Prairie

 

Black Tree Amid Tall Grass, black and white photograph by Keith Dotson. Buy a fine art print.

Black Tree Amid Tall Grass, black and white photograph by Keith Dotson. Buy a fine art print.

 

The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.

—Willa Cather, excerpt from Prairie Spring

 

Stems and Sky, black and white photograph by Keith Dotson. Buy a fine art print here.

Stems and Prairie Sky, black and white photograph by Keith Dotson. Buy a fine art print here.

 

Black Trees on the Prairie - black and white landscape photograph by Keith Dotson. Buy a print.

Black Trees on the Prairie - black and white landscape photograph by Keith Dotson. Buy a print

 

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

—Emily DickinsonTo make a prairie

 

Stems and Horizon, black and white photograph by Keith Dotson. By a print here.

Stems and Horizon, black and white photograph by Keith Dotson. By a print here.

  

Salt Creek Running through the Prairie: black and white photograph by Keith Dotson. Buy a signed fine art print here.

Salt Creek Running through the Prairie: black and white photograph by Keith Dotson. Buy a signed fine art print here.

 

Omaha and Kansas City, Minneapolis and St. Paul, sisters in a house together, throwing slang, growing up.
Towns in the Ozarks, Dakota wheat towns, Wichita, Peoria, Buffalo, sisters throwing slang, growing up . . .
Out of prairie-brown grass crossed with a streamer of wigwam smoke—out of a smoke pillar, a blue promise—out of
wild ducks woven in greens and purples—
Here I saw a city rise and say to the peoples round world: Listen, I am strong, I know what I want.
Out of log houses and stumps—canoes stripped from tree-sides—flatboats coaxed with an ax from the timber
claims—in the years when the red and the white men met—the houses and streets rose. 

—Carl Sandburg, excerpt from Prairie

 

Barren Tree on the Prairie, black and white photograph by Keith Dotson. Buy a print.

Barren Tree on the Prairie, black and white photograph by Keith Dotson. Buy a print.

 

Prairie Landscape with Windmill: black and white photograph by Keith Dotson. Buy a fine art print.

Prairie Landscape with Windmill: black and white photograph by Keith Dotson. Buy a fine art print.

See more prairie photograph here

Illinois landscape photographs

Kansas landscape photographs

Minnesota landscape photographs

Wisconsin landscape photographs 

Sources:

Rudyard Kipling, The PrairieKipling Society

Willa Cather, Prairie Spring, poets.org

Emily Dickinson, To Make a Prairie, poets.org

Carl Sandburg, Prairie, poethunter.com 

 

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