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April 1, 2013

The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Sharon McCartney

love-song-lauraMarita Dachsel recommended The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Sharon McCartney right when our family was in the middle of reading On the Banks of Plum Creek, and so it seemed like an irresistible pick. Because we’ve been so fascinated by the gaps and silences in the Little House books, by what goes on between the lines. What is it to be Caroline Ingalls, we’ve been wondering for a while, and are there varying tones to her declarations of, “Oh, Charles.”? What does “Oh, Charles.” really mean?

In her foreward, Sharon McCartney writes of her poems, “I don’t think of them as being an extension of Wilder’s stories. Rather, the voices, the characters, and the details are vehicles, a way to say what I want to say.” But saying what she wants to say via these characters, voices, details renders these poems familiar territory for me, which is important when poetry itself is decidedly not.

From “Ma”: “This morning I addressed the roof beams, /Charles twitching in sleep beside me: /Today I will do whatever I want.” I was amazed by the perspective of a bull-dog in, “Jack, Swept Away When the River Rises Suddenly Mid-Ford” and of the tattered rag-doll in “Charlotte”. Some poems I suppose I read as voyeuristic glimpses deeper inside the book, such as “Nellie Olesen” which imagines Laura’s nemesis years later, sitting mildly at a temperance meeting. “Pa’s Penis” was not as naughty as we’d imagined.

The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder has much in common with Lorna Crozier’s recent collection The Book of Marvels, itself a catalogue of the hidden lives of ordinary things. As interesting as “Pa’s Penis” and the revelation that the Ingalls family had a son who died at nine months of age is the poem from the perspective of the butter churn, the chinook, a rocking chair, the boughten broom. As interesting as the Little House allusions are the poems themselves, and how they turn familiar territory into a vision that’s altogether new.

2 thoughts on “The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Sharon McCartney”

  1. alyssa says:

    thanks for bringing this book to my attention. I read The Wilder Years recently and it was terrible. This sounds like a good antidote to that disappointing experience.

  2. m says:

    I’m glad you liked this book! There’s so much longing in this book for love and places, it really hits the spot for me when I’m feeling that way myself.

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