MONTEVIDEO — Artist and writer Edie Barrett could tell us about beautiful, beautiful places, thanks to her adventures in places from Costa Rica and Polynesia to Ireland, and 26 years of living in Santa Barbara, California .

Instead, she writes of western Minnesota, “flat and vast, achingly authentic and heartbreakingly beautiful.” This is how she describes this landscape in “The Journey Home”, a short story she wrote in 2018 about her return to her country of origin.

“A long time ago it sank deep into my soul and refused to let go,” writes the fifth-generation Norwegian from Minnesota.

“The Sacred Prairie: Reflections of Nature & Self” is Barrett’s recently published and printed debut collection of poetry. His collection offers an understanding as well as a visual image of why this landscape is so ingrained in his soul and in the souls of so many others.

Understanding is found in his poems, which celebrate the landscape, its people and his own experiences.

The visual image is courtesy of two other artists from western Minnesota: Malena Handeen from rural Milan and Andy Kahmann from Montevideo. In addition to operating the Easy Bean Farm with her husband, Michael Jacobs, Handeen is a regional artist well known for her paintings, drawings and prints depicting this landscape.

Kahmann operates letterpress printing from A to Z in downtown Montevideo, where he perpetuates the art of ancient letterpress printing. It reproduces many works for artists on a nearly 50-year-old hand press.

“That’s it, right there,” Barrett said when she discovered the image that is now the cover of her poetry book. She saw the image among many others on the wall of Kahmann’s shop in downtown Montevideo. She had come to call him to help him find a picture for his work, and immediately knew she had found it.

Barrett learned that the artwork on the shop wall was created by Handeen in 2002. The two-tone artwork that Handeen calls “Peace” was produced on blocks for hand-pressed printing in Kahmann’s shop. It depicts a blue sky full of drama: migrating geese and rolling clouds herald the change of seasons over a western Minnesota landscape.

It sounds so familiar that Handeen said people sometimes tell her they know exactly where she captured that scene. “They think they went there,” she laughed, confident the performance is entirely of her own making.

Kahmann has long enjoyed the image, but he also knew the instant Barrett chose it that he faced a challenge. The blocks that had been created to press the image had been lost in a fire that destroyed Handeen’s art studio in 2012.

With the help of Granite Falls artist Brad Hall, Handeen and Kahmann created new blocks from the original. It wasn’t long before Kahmann launched the hand press to make copies of Barrett’s new book.

Barrett took her poetry to a printer in Fergus Falls to produce the inside pages of the book. This was a new challenge for the printer, as it is not often that a book is bound inside a cover produced by a hand press.

For the artists, this collaboration is an example of the sum greater than its parts.

“It’s much more interesting when we work together,” Barrett said of the resulting work. “I couldn’t have gotten here if I hadn’t brought it to Andy. It features two other areas, Montevideo and Milan, and two other art forms,” she said, referring to Handeen’s visual image and Kahmann’s antique impression.

“I think it’s poetic,” Barrett said of Handeen’s image. “I couldn’t have asked for a better picture than this.”

Barrett settles in Ortonville. She is completing graduate studies at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs with a focus on how the arts can foster community engagement.