Editing the Prairie

Well, it’s too long for one thing

and very repetitive.

Remove half the fields.

Then there are far too many fences

interrupting the narrative flow.

Get some cattlemen to cut down those fences.

There’s not enough incident either,

the story is very flat.

Can’t you write in a mountain

or at least a decent-sized hill?

And why set it in winter

as if the prairie can grow nothing

but snow? I like the pubic bush

but there’s too much even of that,

and the empty sky filling all the silences

between paragraphs is really boring.

I think on due consideration

we’ll have to return your prairie.

Try us again in a year

with a mountain or a sea or a city.

Dive in
  1. According to the poem, what are some complaints about the prairie?
  2. The poem uses an extended metaphor to compare the prairie to a written story. List four specific story terms used and explain how they relate to the prairie.
  3. What would be the outcome if the editing suggestions were made? Why?
  4. Do you agree or disagree with any of the suggestions? Explain.
  5. Try reading this poem aloud using a helpful tone. Now try reading it aloud with a sarcastic tone. Which one increases the irony? Why?

Writing Activity

The last suggestion in the poem is to “try a mountain, a sea, or a city.” Select one of these and write a similar editing poem highlighting six aspects that don’t work, concluding with something that does.


Useful Link

The Prairies: Flat-Out Beautiful: https://youtu.be/FMaQz3wlk4Q

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Bibliographical info

Don Kerr, "Editing the Prairie" from the Wascana Anthology. Copyright © 1996 by Don Kerr. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: Wascana Anthology (Canadian Plains Research Center, 1996)

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