The non-poet’s poet: Carrot River’s Bill Blum puts focus on everyday prairie life

Submitted photos.

If poetry has never appealed to you, Bill Blum has a poem for you.

Blum has lived and worked as a labourer, farmer, and mill worker. On Saturday, however, he’ll be engaged in more cerebral pursuits, when he reads from his latest book of poetry at the Prince Albert Public Library’s John M. Cuelenaere branch.

He’s hoping those efforts will help people who don’t like poetry give the medium a second chance.

“I’ve been told my poetry is for people who don’t read poetry,” Blum said from his home outside Carrot River, where he owns and operates Blum’s Greenhouse with his wife, Linda. “My work is narrative poems. A narrative poem just tells a story, so I’m writing poetry for people who don’t normally read poetry, I’d like to think.”

Blum came to poetry late in life. He began writing in his 60s, and published his first collection, ‘Picking Roots’, in 2011. The poems explored life on the farm, and the people who live there, was shortlisted for two Saskatchewan Book Awards.

He followed that with another collection called ‘Shoebox Poems’ in 2013, and released his third collection, ‘A White Deer’, in 2020. Blum plans to read from this last book during his stop in Prince Albert. He said it took a long time to write, but was worth the effort.

“I think it’s different for everybody,” he said. “I would say in the 200 poems that I had published, maybe two would be called ‘found poems’, poems that I just wrote and didn’t change. The rest is re-write after re-write, at least that’s the way it is for me.

“I’m certainly not comparing myself to any great writer, but a lot of the great works of the world were years and years before they were completed. You’re never really satisfied before you have to put it to bed.”

‘A White Deer’ focuses on family life and friends, along with love, loss, and lessons learned. Blum said many readers become turned off to poetry by some of the reading they do in high school. He’s hoping this collection, which focuses on prairie people and the prairie way of life, will bring a new appreciation for the art form.

“I’d just like to think that I like poetry that people can relate to,” he said. “I’ve had people say, yeah, I remember that, or that’s a relationship I had with my father or that’s how it was on the farm or in my life.

“You just get inspiration,” he added. “You observe people and you think, ‘that’s interesting. Maybe I should write about something that, (like) relationships between people or people suffering loss, and joy also.”

Now age 73, Blum has no intention of slowing down, although he may change lanes. After three books of poetry, he’s hoping to write a collection of short stories. Only time will tell.

“I’ll see how that goes,” he said with a chuckle.

Bill Blum will appear at the Prince Albert Public Library’s John M. Cuelenaere branch on Saturday, March 11 where he’ll read from ‘A White Deer’, his third collection of poetry. The reading begins at 2 p.m.

@kerr_jas •