Mining the Mother Lode: a Moving Rural Verse Poem-Film

Andy Wilkinson’s poem “Mining the Mother Lode” is a lament for the diminishing waters of the enormous Ogallala Aquifer caused by the forces of “progress.” The poem was made into an animated poem-film with the help of Rebecca Shapiro and Jeremy Boreing as part of the Western Folklife Center’s Moving Rural Verse project, which created collaborations between poets and filmmakers around the subject of water in the West. By artfully fusing poetry and video, the Moving Rural Verse poem-films hope to nurture a deeper understanding of rural America and kindle important conversation about critical issues.

The “Mining the Mother Lode” 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.


Andy spoke to us about the writing of the poem and his hopes for its impact:

“I was asked to write an article about the using up of the Ogallala Aquifer for a local magazine. I started to write, and I realized I was ranting. There is no future in doing a rant in prose. I thought that if I am going to be emotional and passionate about it, I am going to have to write a poem.”

“I want people to think about what our obligation is to the environment. The USDA created an annual report in the early 1950s that was about water. If you blacked out the date, it would read exactly the same if it were written today.”


“We already knew what the problem was back then. It’s not the lack of science or the lack of technology, but the lack of will. It’s the lack of willingness to change the bigger systems. Farmers are trapped in a system. They know they are using up the water, but they have to make the payments on the notes and on the equipment. You can change hearts but if you don’t change the system to go with it, you are still going to have the negative effects.”

The Moving Rural Verse program was funded, in part, by Artplace America, National Endowment for the Arts, The Community Foundation of Utah, Jeff Tant and Briana Tiberti. The Moving Rural Verse DVD—containing all four poem-films—is for sale in the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop. To purchase it, give us a call at 888-880-5885

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