Bob Lind, Published August 28 2012
Neighbors: Poetry memorization part of long-ago North Dakota curriculum
It started when Don Gunness, 84, Abercrombie, N.D., wrote about poetry memorization being required when he was in grade school.
Now Ron Fredrickson, Roseville, Calif., writes that he is a year older than Don and “like him,” he says, “attended a small-town school.” Ron lived in Alice, N.D., from 1933 to 1938.
“Our training in poetry,” Ron writes, “consisted of memorizing poems from the official poetry volume of the state of North Dakota.”
It was titled, “A Handbook of Literature” and was issued by the state Department of Public Instruction, of which Bertha Palmer was superintendent.
“Many of those poems,” Ron says, “were classics in the sense of their popularity, and I remember such titles as ‘The Village Blacksmith’ and ‘The Highwayman.’ ”
The handbook also included poems written by James Foley, North Dakota’s poet laureate, who in 1926 wrote the poem that became “The North Dakota Hymn,” the state song, which begins with:
“North Dakota, North Dakota, with thy prairies wide and free,
“All thy sons and daughters love thee, fairest state from sea to sea.”
To which, Foley might add today, “One of the best economically from sea to sea.”
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