After many years of writing poetry, Champaign County Farm Bureau President Lin Warfel of Tolono recently saw a selection of his poetry published by The News-Gazette Inc.
In “Song of the Prairie,” Warfel shares the joys and challenges of modern farming and connects to his land and his heritage.
“It’s a real privilege to be a farmer,” he says. “I’ve been blessed to have a great life and a great family, starting with my wife. I have been blessed all along the way.”
A farmer poet never knows when inspiration will strike so Warfel crafted a unique solution to capture his ideas while driving a tractor or a combine. “I keep a felt-tip Sharpie (marker) and I write on the windows,” he explains.
Later he jots those ideas down on paper and transfers them to his computer. Warfel estimates his computer contained 900 poems a year ago and he has written another 100 to 150 poems since then.
Although Warfel began writing poetry in high school, he starting sharing his poems with others via email about only 10 years ago. A fortuitous exchange with Zelema Harris, retired president of Champaign’s Parkland College, sparked outside interest in his work and led to a request from John Foreman, publisher of The News-Gazette.
Foreman pitched an idea for Warfel to publish a book of poetry, but Warfel declined, saying he was too busy.
About a year ago Foreman repeated his request. “John, now I’m county Farm Bureau president and I’m twice as busy as I was,” Warfel remembers saying at the time.
Foreman countered that all Warfel had to do was select the poems and The News-Gazette publishing would handle all the other details.
Those details included the cover photo of Warfel in one of his seed corn fields this summer and other photos scattered throughout the pages.
Warfel says he never imagined a book of poetry was in his future. “I’m still kind of numb,” he adds.
He also never imagined his poems would have such an impact on some readers. A local librarian told Warfel after reading one of his poems she sat in her office and cried. “I wasn’t prepared for that,” he says.
A man who had worked on Warfel’s grain bins for 30 years came to see Warfel after reading his poems. “He drove in and gave me a hug -- he’s not a man-to-man hugger -- He had tears in his eyes,” Warfel says.
The paperback is available through news-gazette.com
Warfel retains his farmer sense of humor about digesting the poems in “Song of the Prairie.”
“It’s like eating early sweet corn. The first ear tastes really good -- but don’t eat the whole truckload in one sitting.”