Moving Rural Verse

At the core of our Moving Rural Verse series are poems that powerfully communicate contemporary rural issues, ideas and insight—and, in particular, the subject of water in the West. We believe that the artful fusion of poetry and video will nurture a deeper understanding of rural America and kindle important conversation. Produced in collaboration with respected Western poets and experienced video artists, the series is a natural extension of the Western Folklife Center's work with contemporary Western poets. 

The Moving Rural Verse DVD—containing all four poem-films—is for sale in the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop. Give us a call toll free 1-888-880-5885 (ext. 234) or775-738-7508x234 to purchase.

Bendición del agua is a glance into New Mexico's acequia landscape as seen through the eyes of a young woman.  The film brings attention to acequieros who’ve carried on acequia traditions despite challenges of development, rural gentrification and cultural erosion. It is also a call to younger generations to honor ancestral traditions and contribute to a sustainable future through acts of charity, respect, resiliency and a regard for water, land and cultural preservation. Poem by Olivia Romo. Film by Daniel Sonis, with artistic direction from Levi Romero.

Homesteaders Film Photo Chris Simon.jpg

Homesteaders, Poor and Dry: In a time of drought, a small girl finds that courage can be drawn like water from a well. The origin of this poem, Homesteaders, Poor and Dry, was a story a friend’s grandmother told of when she was a girl in Texas during a time of drought and grinding poverty. Though an old story, the story of drought and resulting hardship is a recurring theme in the rural West. Poem by Linda Hussa. Film by Chris Simon and Jerry Dugan.

O’odham Dances is a lyrical film adaptation of Ofelia Zepeda’s poem portraying a Tohono O’odham ritual in which people join with not only the animals of the desert but all the important elements necessary for rain, including winds, clouds, and the heat off the desert. The film shows the dramatic transformation of the Sonoran Desert as night falls—the sun sets, the moon rises, and animals that have quieted their movements through the day’s intense heat come out in search of food and water. Desert images and sounds convey the powerful sense of place and sacred space that Zepeda’s poem evokes. Film by Jonathan VanBallenberghe and Ofelia Zepeda.

Mining the Motherlode is an animated exploration of the themes explored in Andy Wilkinson's poem of the same name. The film is not a literal adaptation of the poem. Rather it attempts to provide a counter-harmony to Andy's words, reflecting the essence of the poet's vision, just as the poem itself reflects the essence of the diminishing waters of the Ogallala. Directed by Jeremy Boreing. Illustrated by Rebecca Shapiro.

If you are interested in screening these films at your festival or conference, please contact Meg Glaser at

Moving Rural Verse was also funded by Jeff Tant and Briana Tiberti.