Within only a few years, Canning founded or worked with newspapers in Detroit, the Wisconsin Territory, and what is now Wheeling, West Virginia, all to varying degrees of success. Ultimately returning to Massachusetts, he abandoned journalistic pursuits and became a farmer — a role which instantly became his greatest poetic inspiration.
Upon the publication of his book Poems, New York editor Lewis Gaylord Clark announced enthusiastically: "Make way for a farmer's boy... who draws his figures from ever-glorious nature!" It was Clark who bestowed upon Canning the nickname "Peasant Bard."
Canning's poem "Night Watch — August 31":
O thou to whom the rolling years
Are moments of our time;
Thou whose existence, lone, appears
Eternal and sublime!
I see Thy star-bespangled sky,
Thy comet-torches shine,
And wonder if Thine awful eye
Can notice me or mine!
I hear Thy voice in thunder fill
The caverns of the sky,
And wonder if the prayer I will
Comes to Thy hearing nigh.
I see Thy whirling breath uptwist
And dash the forest down;
And think, how futile to resist
The anger of Thy frown!
I gaze upon the fields of space
No mortal foot hath trod,
And in the awful Boundless, trace
The mystery of God.