South Dakota Poets You Should Know: David Allan Evans

The South Dakota Poet Laureate until last year (2015), Evans has an understated, imagistic aesthetic that is deceptively simple.  His poetic voice is deeply rooted in concern for the natural world and in exploring how humans encounter nature.  It’s a great example of what South Dakotan poetry can be in the 20th and 21st centuries.  One of my favorite poems of his is “Girl Riding a Horse in a Field of Sunflowers,” which you can find on the Poetry Foundation website:


Girl Riding a Horse in a Field of Sunflowers

By David Allan Evans

Sitting perfectly upright,
contented and pensive,
she holds in one hand,
loosely, the reins of summer:

the green of trees and bushes;
the blue of lake water;
the red of her jacket
and open collar; the brown
of her pinned-up hair,
and her horse, deep
in the yellow of sunflowers.

When she stops to rest,
summer rests.
When she decides to leave,
there goes summer
over the hill.




The poem enacts a conceit, an extended metaphor in which the horse represents summer, and it does that by naming the horse in the title and then, at the end of the first stanza, calling the reins “the reins of summer”—we know they’re controlling the horse, and so the idea that she now controls the summer by controlling the horse is beautifully invoked.  We get a stanza break to consider that idea, and then we inhabit it in all its color:  green, blue, red, brown, yellow.  That second stanza and its list of colors is my favorite part of this poem; it’s specific and simple, and it asks me to pay more attention to the pleasure of color, particularly summer color.  It’s beautiful, and I don’t need fancy names for those colors to recognize how beautiful they are, particularly in contrast to each other.  And then I love the understated ending, exactly what has to happen if we buy that the horse is summer—there it goes, over the hill.  A great poem, and so South Dakotan.


Check out more South Dakota poets you should know

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