The Ode Familiar

By Katherine Dalton for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC
reading a poem

Louisville, Kentucky.  Some time back Caleb Stegall nominated Iris DeMent’s “Our Town” for the Front Porch Theme Song, and an ensuing piece of Bill Kauffman’s elicited a nice long list of good music of place.  Readers who missed that discussion of localism in song might want to visit it here.

I thought we could do the same for poetry, and so below I offer a poem of place, in the hope that it will spark suggestions for an anthology’s worth of localism in meter—or a start, at least.  I could have opened with Wendell Berry’s “The Sycamore,” but demonstrating a regional broadmindedness I am usually careful to suppress, I have chosen a New England poet instead, and though she will be familiar to you this poem of hers will not, I think.

She takes all the sting out of the word “provincial.”  Your own candidates are welcome.


The Robin’s my criterion of tune

Because I grow where robins do–

But were I Cuckoo born

I’d swear by him,

The ode familiar rules the morn.

The Buttercup’s my whim for bloom

Because we’re orchard-sprung–

But were I Britain-born

I’d daisies spurn–

None but the Nut October fits,

Because through dropping it

The seasons flit, I’m taught.

Without the snow’s tableau

Winter were lie to me–

Because I see New Englandly.

The Queen discerns like me–


–Emily Dickinson

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