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Seeing the prairie anew: ‘Heart of the Prairie’ combines poetry, photos to reveal the beauty of the prairie

Posted: Wednesday, Oct 10th, 2012

Bruce Roseland of Seneca prepares for a poetry reading of his verse showcased in the book “Church of the Holy Sunrise,” which is a collection of his work paired with the photographs of Susan Melius of Miranda. They have collaborated to create an art exhibit, “Heart of the Prairie,” which is a set of 24 pieces. In the next two photos, visitors look through the “Heart of the Prairie” collection during the grand opening Sunday at the Centennial Stone Church. PHOTOS BY LOUISE VAN POLL/PLAINSMAN

HURON — Huron has been privileged to be selected as a showcase for the “Heart of the Prairie” exhibit. The traveling exhibit is a collaboration of verse by Bruce Roseland and photographs by Susan Melius.

After being featured at the Spirit of Dakota banquet Saturday, the exhibit was moved to the Centennial Stone Church Sunday. A grand opening and reception was held for both artists Sunday afternoon, hosted by the Dakotaland Museum Board of Directors.

At 2 p.m., Roseland gave a reading of selected poems from “Church of the Holy Sunrise,” the book he and Melius created which inspired the exhibit. “Heart of the Prairie” is a collection of 24 pieces and will be on display at the Stone Church through Oct. 24. The display is free and will be open weekdays from 1 to 5 p.m. and Tuesdays until 7 p.m. Signed prints of some of the pieces will be for sale with 40 percent of the sale price being donated to the Stone Church. Copies of the “Church of the Holy Sunrise” and Roseland’s two other books, “The Last Buffalo” and “A Prairie Prayer,” will also be on sale.

In prefacing his poetry reading, Roseland spoke about living on the Missouri Coteau and the beauty everywhere a person looks.

“There is beauty in every place in the country,” Roseland said. “And South Dakota has a lot of beauty if the folks here would just look around. Just step outside your door and look up at the moon or down at the wildflowers or watch a sunrise.”

Roseland pulls from all these experiences when writing his verse, as well as his work as a fourth-generation farmer and rancher. Roseland lives on the farm homesteaded by his great-grandparents near Seneca.

“After college, when I was thinking about getting a job, I asked myself what I was good at. And the answer was pulling calves,” he laughed. So he went back to the farm and has never regretted the decision. “I love calving season the best,” he said. “It is grueling work and long hours, but you are in the midst of new life. And sometimes death, too. It doesn’t get more real than that.

“We must write about our everyday experiences,” he continued. “In 50 or 70 or 100 years, people will look back and say, ‘So that’s what it was like.’ It is not our job to decide what is important. The future will decide that. It is our responsibility to preserve our way of life through stories, poems and photographs for those future generations.”

A lot of his verse deals with the struggles of past generations to settle the land, the buffalo herds and Indians who crossed the prairie and even the mammoth hunters who survived here during the Ice Age. All those spirits still speak to him and through him to all of us.

The “Heart of the Prairie” exhibit gives South Dakotans a chance to step back and see their surroundings anew through fresh eyes and will instill in all visitors a deeper appreciation for this part of the earth we call home.

For the complete article see the 10-09-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 10-09-2012 paper.

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