we bought an old used manure spreader small holding 80 bushels enough for one pass of 500 feet faded red planks bolted to its steel frame rust on metal ‘action will rub off rust thick steel underneath’ we are told tractor pulls the company name ‘New Idea’ in faded big black letters against the weathered red my uncle worked there late 1940s in open view drive chains continuous belt of push boards on rails wrap around the cargo box at the dump end three axels of blades and tines to scoop and toss manure gears orchestrate the mechanical assembly two five-foot handles engage disengage the drive we lube and grease whoop when the fans turn fling the natural fertilizer on the field
What is the significance of this work to you?
The spreader symbolizes the utility of old technology. The operating chains, gears, and axles are in plain view, and easily accessible for maintenance and repair. The technology is understandable. The past is open to use as is the spreader.
What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?
The Ohio company that designed and built the spreader originated in 1899, made the first mechanical spreader, much like this one. It was horse-drawn. We use a tractor, but the tractor, although manufactured new, is also an older technology, pre-computers.
What was your process for creating this work?
My creative process began with photographing the spreader and documenting its many details. I didn’t intend to write a text poem, rather to create a brief videopoem using only images. I moved to incorporate text because of a serendipitous discovery. I was reading a memoir by an uncle (married to a sister of my father), in which my uncle mentioned working after World War II for the “New Idea” company. I wanted to use this information in any poem, as it too symbolized the reuse of ideas created by our ancestors. I realized I would have to combine image and text.
Ron Tobey grew up in north New Hampshire, USA, and attended the University of New Hampshire, Durham. He has lived in Ithaca NY, Pittsburgh PA, Riverside CA, Berkeley CA, and London UK. After professional careers in Southern California, he and his wife moved to West Virginia, where they raise cattle and keep goats and horses. He is an imagist poet, writing haiku, storytelling poems, spokenpoetry, and producing videopoetry. His work has appeared in two dozen literary magazines.