By Judy Dykstra Brown
Reviewed by Harriet Hart
Judy’s book is a memoir in verse; seven poems describe the author’s early life in South Dakota. A photo accompanies and compliments each poem: abandoned homesteads, horse drawn ploughs, combines, the flat prairie landscape, the author and her family.
Each poem recalls what farm life was like: the sweltering summers, the freezing winters, the hard work, loneliness and boredom. Judy’s childhood wish to escape the prairies becomes an adult longing to return to that mundane world, transformed by poetry into a magical one.
Old Feelings recalls a childhood as distant to Judy now as the ghosts of the gray wolves and Sioux Nation were to her back then. Her father told stories of children lost in snowstorms, Indian wanderers and reclusive homesteaders, stories carved from him just like his plough exposed Indian relics from the soil.
I Used to Eat Red creates a world replete with colours and sounds: red cherries, writhing gold rattlesnakes and the whine of diesel engines on the road. The poem depicts the longing a small child with an active imagination feels for faraway places. Songbirds transport her to jungles, oceans and Persian gardens.
In The Combines and Prairie Moths, the author brilliantly evokes the life of the bored prairie teenager for whom itinerant threshing crews seemed desirable, if dangerous, and parking on a deserted country road with a boy as “nearly Clark Gable” as she could find evoked foreign lands.
Farmer’s Daughter is the finest poem in the collection. In it, Judy comes to an understanding of who her parents were from the vantage point of adulthood; she recognizes certain aspects of them in herself. Her farmer father swapped Shakespeare quotes with the local plumber and her mother, a transplanted city girl, tried to beautify her plain surroundings through flower gardening.
Judy left South Dakota but it remains tucked away deep in her soul. Lovers of good poetry, lost children from the prairies and all who miss the magic of childhood will relish Prairie Moths.
You have the opportunity to meet the author and purchase her book on Sunday, April 10th from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Estrellita’s B&B, #18 on the 26th of September in Ajijic (beside the Lake Chapala Society). Prairie Moths and Ocean Pathways will showcase the book and Judy’s most recent found art: jewelry and wall sculptures made from objects she found beachcombing in Jalisco. Prairie Moths is also available from Diane Pearl’s Collection on Colon.