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Heidi Mae Niska and Julie Gard reflect on their prose poem and photography collaboration set in northern Minnesota.

We began our collaboration before we ever met, by means of the Words to Art: Poetry about Photography Exhibit at the Waterfront Gallery in Two Harbors, Minnesota. We decided to continue to work together and met on the shores of Lake Superior for a journaling and picture-taking session. During two hours of sitting on rocks and watching the boats go by, we discovered common interests in terms of exploration of scale and representation of familiar sights from unusual points of view.

Julie Gard: I was drawn immediately to Heidi Mae’s vivid, elusive, close-up images of natural objects and settings and found that words came easily in their presence. I have discovered that writing off of another artist’s creative vision leads to the formation of sentences in unusual ways. It provides a jolt to the writing, this kind of translating and reinterpreting, pulling narration out of a split second of time. Sometimes I “misinterpret” Heidi Mae’s images, mistaking water for ice or dew for frost, misreading the season altogether. I like to think of these misreadings as skipped stitches that add to the originality and texture of our jointly created work.


Heidi Mae Niska: I enjoy and appreciate seeing where Julie’s words go… how they create a new trajectory for the photograph…. new dimensions and depth… in language/thoughts and visually. My photographs are an exploration of texture, color, and stepping away from the usual viewpoint. I tend to focus on the abstract aspects and the yumminess of color and texture in the image. Julie’s words open up new interpretations of my photograph such that I find myself on a delightful thought journey punctuated with my other senses.


Prose poems and photography from their collaboration are available to view here.

Heidi Mae Niska is a photographer who identifies with the up-north culture and solitude found in the north woods of Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Heidi Mae finds accumulating snowfall exhilarating and wrong-turn meanderings delightful. Her images depict solitary places in nature that always speak to the authentic spirit that resides in each of us and, in contrast to this, locations where the artifacts left behind whisper the stories of previous generations and place them on the timeline of life where we will all find ourselves one day.  She seeks to share her intimate understanding of the soothing, nourishing, and restorative attributes of solitude and nature through her photographic imagery.


Julie Gard’s prose poetry collection Home Studies (New Rivers Press) was a finalist for the 2016 Minnesota Book Award, and her chapbooks include Obscura: The Daguerreotype Series (Finishing Line Press) and Russia in 17 Objects (Tiger’s Eye Press). Julie’s poems, stories, and essays have appeared in Gertrude, Fourth River, Clackamas Literary Review, Crab Orchard Review, Ekphrasis, and Blackbox Manifold, among other journals and anthologies. A former Fulbright Graduate Fellow in Vladivostok, Russia, she lives in Duluth and is Associate Professor of Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.