Song of the St. Croix: Poems from ‘Reading the River’

Enjoy the short river-inspired verse shared at last week’s event.




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Thank you to everyone who came to ‘Reading the River‘ last Thursday. It was a cold and rainy night and we were competing with the Vikings-Packers game, but ArtReach St. Croix’s Stillwater gallery was pretty full.

Four folks shared their work – including Susan Armington, whose paintings she created based on her 2013 residency at the Pine Needles cabin are on display until October 11, Laurie Allmann, the first-ever artist-in-residence at Pine Needles – and many in the audience tried their hand at writing short haiku afterward.

Thank you to Susan and Laurie, as well as Bill McCarthy, for reading. Thanks to everyone – including my two-year-old daughter – for listening attentively, even when I was reading. And thank you to the St. Croix Watershed Research Station, including director Dan Engstrom and Jim Almendinger for attending, and Sharon Mallman, the heart and soul of the Pine Needles residency. Lastly, thanks to Diana Hatchitt for being our volunteer chaperone, and ArtReach executive director Heather Rutledge for making things run smoothly.

Let’s do it again sometime. Here are the poems written by attendees. My own works are below that.

(Above haiku by Kate Seitz.)

The poems I read:

A haiku about one of the most magical moments I experienced on the river this summer, when my friend Slim and I celebrated the last day of the year that the sun would set after 8 p.m. with an evening float.

Floating slowly past
A family of sandhills
Watching each other

This one is a tanka, a five-line poem that developed in Japan in the seventh century. Haiku came later, a shortened version of tanka. I wrote this about a night a month ago with a good friend going through hard times.

Standing at Log House
Silver river slipping past
Black woods, yellow trees
Frogs and owls sing lullabies
Soothing two impeded hearts

Here is a haiku about the first trip I took this year, back in April:

The ice gone last week
Fast, cold and fully flooded
Out before the birds

And one about a couple days spent exploring one of the St. Croix’s wild tributaries in northern Wisconsin:

Totogatic spring
Sharp bends below high sand banks
Willows and warblers

Here is another five-line tanka about the afternoon this summer that Katie and I took our two-year-old daughter Annika down the river for the first time in her life:

Deep in the floodplain
A tree cracks – crashes to earth
Cranes cry urgently
You and I know this old song
But hear it for the first time


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One response to “Song of the St. Croix: Poems from ‘Reading the River’”

  1. Marty Avatar

    I have to say, I am partial to Anika’s haiku. Congratulations to all of you!


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Song of the St. Croix: Poems from ‘Reading the River’