A lucky American childhood by Paul Engle

By Paul Engle

The legacy of poet Paul Engle, who died in 1991, comprises the foreign Writing software on the college of Iowa, which he helped present in 1967, and the memoir A fortunate American adolescence. Engle grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the course of the Nineteen Twenties on a hardscrabble farm the place his family members struggled to make ends meet. now not unavoidably the conventional education floor for a poet and educator, yet Engle unearths in his early life the uncooked fabrics that formed him not just as a poet yet as an individual to boot.

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That full basket must have weighed as much as a bale of hay, but she lifted it lightly. She could harness a team of horses and drive a wagon. She could climb ladders to pick cherries or to paint the house. She helped spade the garden, hoed it, weeded it. She spent burning summer days in the kitchen canning fruit and vegetables, even when the total savings must have been pennies after she had paid for the Mason jars, the metal tops, the rubber rings. I always hovered around when she was canning to help in little ways, carrying big bowls of skinned and pitted peaches, quartered tomatoes, green beans which had been trimmed and the "string" pulled away, pans of apples which had been chopped and mashed to be made into her apple Page 8 butter with its cinnamon tang.

Father's constant heavy lifting, throwing bales of hay and straw, and wrestling with the powerful legs of his horses strained his back. I remember him lying on the long wicker sofa, shirt pulled up, while Mother rubbed his back with the liniment, a fiery liquid which must have been mostly alcohol, judging by its smell. I remember him saying, "Ah, right there. " Mother poured another handful from the bottle and rubbed with both of her strong hands. " We heard her cry and fall. When we ran to the kitchen she was curled up on the floor and writhing as the corrosive burned her stomach.

Though his mother shares with her Reinheimer relatives a gentle acceptance of a life of poverty, grinding work, and a spouse at once brutal and loving, Tom Engle represents even more arrestingly the violent side of the Engle legacy. Hence words like "rage," "furious," "hard," and "loud" echo through- Page viii out this story, not only in scenes with Tom Engle but even in neutral artifacts like the family photo Uncle Herm proudly displays of the pelts of wolves he's shot on his Minnesota farm; that snapshot still "howls, cracks, yells" in the author's imagination.

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