The River Sonnet : Images, Sounds, Words, Action

The River Sonnet is an interactive project that is scaffolded around a film that consists of a slideshow of photographs overdubbed by an intersplicing of braided clips of ambient sound recordings, regional dialect and fractured audio readings of original poetry.  All of the footage included in the collection is derived from a series of journeys that originated at Lake Itasca, Minnesota, or the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and followed backwater roads and byways along the ten states that boarder the river to its mouth, south of Venice, Louisiana. The primary goal of The River Sonnet is to track shifts in natural and cultural land and soundscapes in order to capture a realistic assessment of the state of life in the biosphere of the Mississippi River Valley. We hold no pretenses towards advocacy in any particular direction, rather, we hope only to convey the most honest possible picture of the reality facing all forms of life endeavoring to maintain their survival in a rapidly changing environment and declining economy bordering one of the world’s most complex and large scale water systems. The pledge to deal with the culture and ecosystems with which we engaged as honestly, transparently and as compassionately as possible permeates all aspects of the footage that constitutes the project.

Most importantly, The River Sonnet is a project that is designed to be ongoing with the assistance of its audiences. The people who live along the Mississippi or who are drawn to its banks are full of passion and dignity, who is better to convey the real nature of its wild and beautiful places than those who live and dream there. Since finishing the film, we have embarked on a series of screenings and community discussions about the pressures facing the ecologies and communities in the valley. We have listened to people tell stories about the histories of their homes as they attempt to relate something about the connection they feel with their native landscapes. It is our hope that such meetings, as well as the website and film, can serve as a catalyst to connect various persons and groups under the single goal of preserving and showcasing the Mississippi River Valley and the pride its inhabitants.

As artists, we believe that individuals speak most honestly when they speak creatively. This is why we have set up a variety of social media platforms and community programs for people to be able to continue the collection of images, sounds and words inspired by the river.  Some of these platforms are linked through the Get Involved tab on this website. Our hope is that people who watch the film will upload photographs, videos, sound recordings, poems, informal essays or even links to events or articles dealing with river life and landscape. Next, we hope that The River Sonnet project can take a life of its own, wild and unpredictable as the river that ties us all together and that empties so much of our country’s heart into the sea. Finally, we hope that watching our film and getting involved in our project can help some people re-imagine places that have become so familiar that their grace has become virtually invisible. More than anything, we hope that getting inspired about the places we live, and finding new ways to show people how to see them as we do, will help some of us to, once again, come back home. 


We would like to express our gratitude to the following people and organizations for making our project possible.

  • and The Sierra Club for their support and river valley stewardship.
  • Hip Pocket Press and Canary for their support and dedication to artistic expression in the name of sustainability.
  • The Great River Road and Tourism Bureaus of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. 
  • Brandy Johnson of New Orleans, LA for her assistance with audio production.
  • William Talbott of Denver, CO for his assistance with graphic and web design.
  • Thomas Publishing of Carbondale, IL for their assistance with production and promotion.
  • Wanda Oakey and the Renascence House in Makanda, IL for hosting our premiere. 
  • All of the people who shared their lives, stories and homes with us during our travels. 
  • All of the people who continue to make The River Sonnet project successful by sharing their own creative activities and news.