The Hoosier Poet
March 26, 2012
When I was a girl growing up, my dad would read to my brother and me from a book of poetry by James Whitcomb Riley. I can still hear his voice and the expression he used reading The Raggedy Man. I really knew very little about this author, so I found a biography of his life.
He was born October 7, 1849 in the little village of Greenfield, Indiana. His best poems recollect his childhood and youth in Greenfield. He wrote using common speech and told of everyday things. He was sometimes called a dialect singer because he could use the expressions of people from many different homelands. His first published poems were written for newspapers, and later Riley presented his poems on stage. His great popularity came from his traveling performances.
Later in life, his poems were printed in beautiful illustrated books, which caught national and international attention. Riley became the wealthiest writer of his time. He was known as "The Hoosier Poet" but also America's "Children's Poet." His poems reflect the child in all of us. Riley died of a stroke in July of 1916.
We have several books of his poetry at MCPL. You might enjoy reading his unique poems. Here is the first stanza from The Raggedy Man.
O the Raggedy Man! He works fer Pa;
An' he's the goodest man ever you saw!
He comes to our house every day,
An' waters the horses, an' feeds 'em hay;
An' he opens the shed--an' we all ist laugh
When he drives out our little old wobble-ly calf;
An'nen--ef our hired girl says he can--
He milks the cow fer 'Lizabuth Ann--
Ain't he a' awful good Raggedy Man?
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
Blue Springs South Branch