Then and now: The view from Indian Mounds Regional Park overlooking the Mississippi River, Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and downtown Saint Paul in 1902 and 2020. (Photo credits: Edward Albert Fairbrother, Minnesota Historical Society; Mishaila Bowman for Lower Phalen Creek Project)
As we share this then-and-now photo pairing, leaves in the Twin Cities are still mostly green, but the air is cooling, signaling changes to come. Our fall 2020 prompt features change along the river: the season from summer to fall, and the river's surroundings over time. We invite you to imagine the river’s perspective from long ago to today.
A little background on the place pictured above: Nestled between the bluff and the Mississippi River just east of downtown St. Paul sits the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, where Native-led Lower Phalen Creek Project and partners have worked for years to reclaim the former rail-yard turned dumpsite, and to restore the land, while creating access to and understanding of this culturally significant place of power.
A former cave in this sanctuary is the Dakota people’s Wakáŋ Tipi, or Dwelling Place of the Sacred. (The entrance to this cave was destroyed to make way for the railroads pictured above.) We’re working with Lower Phalen Creek Project on habitat restoration here, and we’re excited about their vision for how to honor the site's history and ongoing importance to Dakota people in this restoration process and through the proposed Wakáŋ Tipi Center.
The Write to the River project
Write to the River is a creative writing project to inspire artistic engagement with our river environment. We invite you to share an original poem or short prose response to seasonal images along the Upper Mississippi River.
No previous creative writing experience is necessary and all ages and styles are welcome — short prose works, free verse, formal verse, your own verse!
Submissions will be published in our next online edition. We may also showcase some submissions in future issues of Mississippi Messages, our e-newsletter. Sign up to get each season's prompt and news of edition releases.
Need a few ideas or prompts to get started?
- List the first words that come to mind as you look at this season's photo.
- What story is being told? What is the subject?
- What feelings are evoked? Does it remind you of a past experience?
- Imagine being here — what sounds, smells and tastes might you experience?
How to submit
Submit your piece via our submission form by November 1, 2020.
If you're under 18 years old, please include your age and a contact number where we can reach a guardian or parent so that we can publish your work.
If you are a student or a teacher and are submitting prose and poetry as part of a class project, please do NOT use the submission form. Instead please contact Write to the River Coordinator Leslie Thomas at email@example.com.
Remember, this is a friendly call for submissions. There is no grading, only appreciation.
Contact Write to the River Coordinator Leslie Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. Happy writing to the river! We look forward to reading your work.
Historical photo credit: Fairbrother, Edward Albert. St. Paul from Indian Mounds Park; railroad yards in foreground. ca. 1902. Minnesota Historical Society, Saint Paul, MN.