On the Page and in the Field

“Everyone can write poetry!” 

That’s the message Bruce Roseland, ’74, ’80, wants to spread during his four-year term as Poet Laureate of South Dakota. Bruce is South Dakota’s 8th Poet Laureate. His term runs from 2023-2027.

“Everyone has the creative spark in them,” Bruce said. “Poetry is a way of communicating about what we value. By listening to others’ poetry, we learn what they value in their lives.”

Bruce has published seven books of free verse poetry; four have received national awards. Writing isn’t the focus of most of Bruce’s days. For 44 years, he has been a rancher in Seneca, S.D., on the land homesteaded by his great-grandfather.

“An education helped me in my everyday work life,” Bruce said. “Knowing I had degrees to fall back on helped give me the courage to endure the farm crisis of the ’80s.”
While driving his tractor through the days and years, Bruce explains, “I had plenty of time to think the deep thought, the long thought; plenty of time to make sense of my world, which all ended up as my poetry.”

Bruce with medal

Bruce Roseland, ’74, ’80, is South Dakota’s 8th Poet Laureate.

Education Paves the Way

Bruce promotes poetry in many ways. He served as president of South Dakota State Poetry Society for three terms. As part of “Poetry on the Road,” a South Dakota State Poetry Society program, Bruce encourages South Dakotans to write and share their own poems. The group has hosted readings and open mics at 16 locations across the state so far. 

Bruce advises, “Get all the education you can. Find your passions in life and learn all about them, but have a day job, a job that pays for the necessities of life. If you’re lucky, one of your passions may become your day job. When a door opens, walk through it; see what that door has to offer.”

One of Bruce’s best-known poems is “A Prairie Prayer.” 

A Prairie Prayer

Here, on this arc / of grass, sun and sky, / I will stay and see if I thrive. / Others leave. They say it’s too hard. / I say hammer my spirit thin, / spread it horizon to horizon, / see if I break. / Let the blizzards hit my face; / let my skin feel the winter’s freeze; / let the heat of summer’s extreme / try to sear the flesh from my bones. / Do I have what it takes to survive, / or will I shatter and break? / Hammer me thin, / stretch me from horizon to horizon. / I need to know the character / that lies within. / I want to touch a little further / beyond my reach, / for the something that I seek. / Only then let my spirit be released. 

Bruce Roseland’s poetry programs are available through the South Dakota Humanities Speakers’ Bureau.