The History of Naming Cows

12 July 2012

The History of Naming Cows
by Mitch Spray
Published by Hagios Press
Reviewed by Brinnameade Smith
$17.95 ISBN 978-1-926710-15-0

The History of Naming Cows is one of the quirkiest titles for a poetry book that I’ve come across, but it’s a natural fit. It speaks to the tradition as well as the personal connection of farming and raising cattle on the prairies as found in the poetry. Many of the poems begin in childhood and describe the curiosity, wonder and contentment with farm life as well as bringing new life and brightness to seemingly mundane tasks. The objects and experiences that fascinate a child growing up on a farm aren’t the same as a city kid would have and the seemingly obvious points of interest are only touched on in this collection of poems, while hidden treasures and overlooked curiosities are brought to the forefront, showing a new perspective on prairie life.

Some stories are also revisited in other poems placed at a different time where the cares and concerns of childhood are set parallel to those of adult life. The curiosity behind simple everyday tasks has been replaced with a calmness as they become routine. But with age also comes understanding, and the meaning behind these simple actions is explored through the poetry as day to day life is being thoughtfully dissected for the first time. Characters, human and animal, drift in and out of the thread of poems as though a family story is being told in bits and pieces around the kitchen table on a warm summer night. Touching stories, funny stories, simple ones and ones that looking back you might wish you hadn’t heard all have their place in this first candid collection of poetry that strikes close to the heart on the Canadian prairies.


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