James Whitcomb Riley

James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) was a poet who was born in Indiana countryside in the mid-nineteenth century. He wasn’t a very good student because he preferred to be outside reading books he chose creating rhymes and walking in his neighborhood.

He quit school when he was 20 and did all sorts of strange charms from selling Bibles to painting houses to painting signs. He eventually joined a traveling patent medicine show where for which he painted signs, wrote advertisements, and sang. This job gave him the chance to serve all kinds of people in many rural places, which led to some of the characters in his poetry.

When he was 25 years old, Riley joined the newspaper business as an assistant editor. He wrote book reviews, humorous editorials, and all kinds of poems. He performed poetry on the lecture circuit As well as producing more than fifty volumes of poems.

We’ve picked four poems for your family to enjoy this month, including “When the Frost is on the Punkin,” which is a fun piece to memorize.


Portrait Credit: By Unknown author – Indiana State Library collection, InHi: C6444, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10246531

This grandpa recites “When the Frost is on the Punkin” from memory with a great accent. He’s great fun to watch.

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