Poetry and Prose on the Prairie
Wherever the magic lies, it draws me back again and again.
If I had to guess what makes the prairie so magical, I’d say it’s the Queen Anne’s Lace or the Purple Coneflower blowing gently in the breeze or maybe the dragonflies and butterflies dancing in the morning sun or the even the gurgling brook flowing merrily through the grasses. Wherever the magic lies, it draws me back again and again.
I think that’s why I applied for the 2019 Indiana Arts in the Parks and Historic Sites Grant to write about the prairies of Prophetstown State Park. I wanted to tap into the wonder of driving up over the hill on an autumn afternoon and seeing the whole landscape ablaze from the sun reflecting off the tall grass prairie. I wanted to plumb the depths of the winter prairie, asleep beneath a blanket of snow, resting for her spring spectacle. And I wanted to find out more about the history of this landscape that occupies such a small part of my state.
As it happened, I was awarded that Arts in the Parks grant, and this page is dedicated to my grant program, “Poetry & Prose on the Prairie.” I’ll be spending a lot of time at Prophetstown over the next year, taking photos, recording observations, digging into the history, and eventually writing 10 essays that capture the heart of this restored prairie. I’ll also be leading a writing workshop for writers at all levels on September 7, 2019. Participants will learn how to really see the landscapes around them through careful observation. They’ll be given tools to research and name what they find. And then they’ll learn how to integrate their own lives and experiences with the natural world to create inviting poetry and prose.
Thanks for joining me on the prairie! Check back often for photos, blog posts, workshop details, and more!
“To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.”
~ Emily Dickinson
Poetry and Prose on the Prairie
A Nature Journal of Prophetstown State Park
What about this land made it so enticing for so many willing to fight for it?
At the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers, Prophetstown certainly offered access to waterways. But it also boasted a diverse landscape of edible and medicinal plants, as well as the birds and animals that found their habitat there. The rich soil also proved fertile for planting crops, and when the prairie plants dried up, creating a thick, tangled mat, fire (either from lightning or from controlled burns) released nutrients into the soil and controlled the landscape for hunting.
The land and its ecosystem are different now, after decades of mechanical farming, tile draining, and receding rivers. But the land is also the same, with a more complicated story now. The land has been ravaged and cared for; it’s seen flooding and drought. It’s known the sharp cutting of plow and disk, as well as the gentle nurturing of hand-planted grasses and wildflowers. Fire still serves the land, primarily with controlled burns, and mostly, the land continues to produce good things for the world, good things you can see for yourself when you come. Let Poetry and Prose on the Prairie be your guide.
Poetry & Prose on the Prairie: A One-Day Writing Workshop
Saturday, September 7, 2019
Coneflower Shelter of Prophetstown State Park
“Poetry & Prose on the Prairie” was a writing workshop for writers at all levels led by Charity Singleton Craig on Saturday, September 7, 2019, in the Coneflower Shelter of Prophetstown State Park. The workshop included sessions on observing nature; naming and cataloguing flora, fauna, weather, and geologic features through research; drawing from personal memories; and integrating our own lives and experiences with the natural world to create inviting poetry and prose.
Thanks to everyone who attended! It was a wonderful event.
“The prairie skies can always make you see more than what you believe.” ~ Jackson Burnett
My Field Guide Nature Journals
Designed just for nature wonderers like you!
These handy 3.5×5.5 journals with 48 blank pages slip easily in a pocket or backpack as you head out into the prairie, forest, or any natural setting. Inside the front cover, record information about the sites you visit, and use info inside the back cover to guide your journaling.
Buy a pack of three notebooks for $8 plus shipping, or download the template and make your own notebooks for free.
More Resources for Prairie Wonderers
A Forest Walk
by Kimberly Ruffin
Kimberly Ruffin created this guided practice for Emergence Magazine as a companion to her essay “Bodies of Evidence” in their Faith issue. Here, she offers ways to connect to the living world through a walk in the forest.
Birds of Indiana Field Guide
by Stan Tekiela
Make bird watching in Indiana even more enjoyable! With Stan Tekiela’s famous field guide, bird identification is simple and informative. This book features 112 species of Indiana birds, organized by color.
The Tallgrass Prairie: An Introduction
by Cindy Crosby
An instant classic in the tradition of American naturalist writing, The Tallgrass Prairie will delight not only scholars and policy makers, but also guests to tallgrass prairie preserves.
How To Save The Bees
from The Honeybee Conservancy
Saving the bees is a big job — but taking action is easy! Check out these tips from The Honeybee Conservancy to start saving bees and protecting their habitat right in your own community.
Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie
by Sylvan T. Runkel and Dean M. Roosa
Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie introduces naturalists to the beauty and diversity of the native plants of the huge grasslands that once stretched from Manitoba to Texas.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, Kimmerer shows how other living beings offer us gifts and lessons.
By Willoway Brook: Exploring the Landscape of Prayer
by Cindy Crosby
Life is busy. By Willoway Brook invites us to stop, carve out a quiet place, and communicate with the God who created it all.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
~ John Muir
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Views from the Prairie
This project is made possible with support by the Indiana Arts Commission and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.