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Review from the Prince George Citizen

Fredericton poet shows pioneer life in The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Michael O. Nowlan. Prince George Citizen. Prince George, B.C.: Aug 8, 2007. pg. 27

Most television viewers are familiar with "The Little House on the Prairie" series, and many have read all the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Sharon McCartney may not shed much information on Wilder, her life or work, but she uses "the voices, the characters, and the details" of the Wilder books as "vehicles," or as "a way to say what I want to say" in "The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder."

McCartney, a Fredericton, N.B., poet, creates "a series of poems that relies for its inspiration on the children's books of Wilder."

Wilder was born in Wisconsin in 1867 and travelled west in covered wagon through Kansas and Minnesota.

At the urging of her daughter, Wilder wrote her stories about 1880s pioneer life in the 1930s and 1940s.

These poems are vignettes or glimpses at the creations of Wilder. They portray episodes that were suggested, or some even omitted, by Wilder and her daughter in the "Little House" books.

McCartney cleverly designs pictures as she writes "Freddy, Dead at Nine Months," "Pa's Big Green Book," "Pa's Ax," "Covered Wagon" and numerous other incidents.

These poems are a moving snapshot of life lived in poverty, deprivation and uncertainty.

Unlike the "Little House" books, they are not romantic evolutions of pioneer life. They intend to represent reality.

McCartney says "what attracts me to the 'Little House' books as source material is the contrast between the author's romantic version of her family's experiences on the American frontier in the 1880s and the reality."

Each poem opens with an epigraph from one of the Wilder books, on which McCartney builds the substance of the poem. They are a guide or key for McCartney's interpretation of the "Little House" characters, "human, non-human, animate, and inanimate."

Each epigraph is an important feature of "The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder."

McCartney employs contrasts: cheer and distraction, thrill and guilt, good and anger. There is humour and pathos, love and distrust, happiness and tragedy.

The poet breathes her own dimensions on Wilder because "the poems in this series are my own."