Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

How my poetry inspired a still life painting of lilacs April 10, 2014

POETRY INSPIRING ART. It’s a fabulous concept and even better when you are part of such a pairing.

A poem I penned has inspired art for Poet-Artist Collaboration XIII, which opened March 31 and runs through May 15 at Crossings at Carnegie, 320 East Avenue, Zumbrota.

"Lilacs on the Table" by Jeanne Licari

“Lilacs on the Table” by Jeanne Licari. Photo courtesy of Crossings at Carnegie.

I recently connected with “my” artist, Jeanne Licari, to learn how my poem, “Lilacs,” inspired her to paint “Lilacs on the Table,” an 11 x 14-inch still life oil on linen.

Twenty-six poems were chosen from nearly 210 submissions with 26 artists then selected via a juried process. This is Jeanne’s ninth time participating in the collaboration and my second.

Artist Jeanne Licari

Artist Jeanne Licari in her studio. Photo courtesy of Jeanne Licari.

A mostly self-taught artist who drew and painted as a child, this Rochester resident also furthered her talent through painting classes and workshops. She terms herself a representational oil painter who prefers to paint from life, whether a landscape or a still life.

Jeanne is both plein air—painting outdoors on location—and studio painter.

“My art reflects the beauty I see in mankind and nature,” she says. “My paintings are a direct response to what I see.”

Or, in the case of “Lilacs,” to what she read.

Lilacs

Breathing in the heady scent of lilacs each May,
I remember my bachelor uncle and the gnarled bushes,
heavy with purple blooms, that embraced his front porch
and held the promises of sweet love never experienced.

He invited his sister-in-law, my mother, to clip lilacs,
to enfold great sweeps of flowers into her arms,
to set a still life painting upon the Formica kitchen table,
romance perfuming our cow-scented farmhouse.

Such memories linger as my own love, decades later,
pulls a jackknife from the pocket of his stained jeans,
balances on the tips of his soiled Red Wing work shoes,
clips and gathers great sweeps of lilacs into his arms.

Plenty of lilacs to gather in the spring.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of lilacs.

Jeanne explains how she created “Lilacs on the Table”:

“…I wanted to tell the viewer how I felt about lilacs. The poem triggered memories of many bouquets of lilacs in my lifetime. I love the dense bouquet of purple flowers, the beauty of the different pinks and purples against the green leaves, and the abundant fragrance of lilacs. Since there were no lilacs blooming in March, I painted them using memories of lilacs and how they grew, an oil study of lilacs painted from life, and photos.

I painted the lilacs on a table in response to the line, ‘to set a still life painting upon the Formica kitchen table.’ That line, plus the words about farming, made me remember many bouquets of lilacs on our Formica table in my childhood home on the farm.”

How fabulous to know that Jeanne comes, like me, from a rural background. Her words and oil painting show me that she understands and connects to my words in a deeply personal way.

And that is my hope as a poet—that those who read my poetry will connect to it.

A promotional for the collaboration features "Li Bai at the South Fork," art by Mike Schad inspired by a poem of the same name written by Justin Watkins for the 2013 Poet-Artist XII collaboration.

A promotional for the collaboration features “Li Bai at the South Fork,” art by Mike Schad inspired by a poem of the same name written by Justin Watkins for the 2013 Poet-Artist Collaboration XII.

FYI: A reception, poetry reading and slide show honoring the featured poets and artists is set for Saturday, May 10. Mingle and meet for an hour beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Crossings gallery. Then, at 7:30 p.m., move next door to the historic State Theatre where poets will read their works and artists will also briefly discuss their art, shown on a screen.

Another poet from my community of Faribault, Larry Gavin, who has published several poetry collections and teaches English at Faribault High School, will read two of his selected poems, “Ashes” and “Two Cranes.”

Collaboration participants come from Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

The featured artwork is available for sale, including “Lilacs on the Table,” priced at $395. Jeanne Licari’s art is also sold at the SEMVA (South Eastern Minnesota Visual Arts) Gallery in downtown Rochester.

Crossings at Carnegie, housed in a former Carnegie library, is a privately-owned cultural visual and performing arts center in Zumbrota. I love the rural atmosphere with the hardware story and grain elevator just down the street.

Crossings at Carnegie, housed in a former Carnegie library, is a privately-owned cultural visual and performing arts center in Zumbrota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

If you can’t attend the May 10 reception, you can view the exhibit during gallery hours from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Thursday; or from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday.

Click here for more details about Poet-Artist Collaboration XIII.

Click here to see how my poem, “Her Treasure,” inspired Connie Ludwig to paint “Pantry Jewels” for the Poet-Artist Collaboration XI in 2012.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How the Minnesota prairie ignites my poetry April 2, 2014

WHAT IS IT ABOUT POETRY?

Do you embrace or shun it? Write it or read it? Do you even care?

April marks National Poetry Month, a full thirty days initially established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 to focus on poetry.

My most recent poem, "The Farmer's Wife, Circa 1960, has been published in Poetic Strokes, an anthology published by Southeastern Libraries Cooperating. My poem was one of 23 selected from 196 submissions. The anthology should soon be available for check-out by library patrons in the SELCO system.

My most recent poem, “The Farmer’s Wife, Circa 1960,” has been printed in Poetic Strokes, an anthology published by Southeastern Libraries Cooperating. My poem was one of 23 selected from 196 submissions. The anthology should soon be available for check-out by library patrons in the SELCO system.

If you haven’t read poetry in years, I’d suggest you revisit poetry. Long gone, mostly, are rhymed verses.

Instead, you will find poets penning free verse that correlates to an abbreviated form of storytelling or a spilling of emotions or a harmony of detailed observations and more.

Despite differences in subject matter and style, poets share a common love of language. Alliterations. Personification. Similes and metaphors. Strong verbs.

Poetry, though it may appear easy to write, is not.

Details matter. Each word matters. The sound of a poem read aloud matters.

A poem I wrote about my mother, published in Poetic Strokes 2014.

A poem I wrote about my mother, just published in Poetic Strokes 2014, A Regional Anthology of Poetry from Southeastern Minnesota.

Every poet possesses a style. I’d define mine as rooted in my native southwestern Minnesota prairie. That stark land shaped me as a writer. My poems convey a strong sense of place, words wheeling like a prairie fire across the landscape of a page.

With so few distractions, the prairie presents an ideal environment to notice details—the grate of the wind, the lean of an outbuilding, the weathered grey of an abandoned farmhouse, the isolation, the calloused hands of a farmer, green corn leaves unfurling against rich black soil, the horizontal grid of township gravel roads, power lines stretching into infinity…

Those who’ve never lived on the prairie often fail to understand its beauty, dismissing it as the middle of nowhere.

But this land holds my heart and memories and continues to inspire me. Not all of my verse. But much of it.

Some of my prairie-inspired poetry includes:

    • “This Barn Remembers,” Lake Region Review #1
    • “Taking Lunch to the Men in the Field,” Lake Region Review #2
    • “Abandoned Barn,” The Talking Stick, Volume 20
    • “Broken,” The Talking Stick, Volume 21
    • “The Farmer’s Song,” The Talking Stick, Volume 22
    • “Prairie Sisters,” Poetic Strokes, Volume 2
    • “Abandoned Farmhouse,” Poetic Strokes, Volume 3
    • “Walking Beans,” Poetic Strokes, Volume 3
    • “A school without a library,” Poetic Strokes, Volume 4
    • “Saturday night baths,” Poetic Strokes, Volume 4
    • “Her Treasure,” 11th annual Poet-Artist Collaboration, Crossings at Carnegie
    • “Lilacs”, 13th annual Poet-Artist Collaboration, Crossings at Carnegie and honorable mention at 18th annual Northwoods Art & Book Festival

And that poetry, my prairie poetry, has graced billboards, walls, recreational signage, galleries, and the pages of magazines, newspapers and anthologies. 

Perhaps it’s time to consider compiling those poems and others into a collection. Thoughts?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My “farm wife” mother inspires my winning poetry February 28, 2014

MY 81-YEAR-OLD MOM inspires me.

She inspires me to live my life with the same positive outlook, grateful heart and kindness she’s exuded her entire life.

And she inspires my poetry. In recent poetry writing endeavors (click here and here), she has been the subject of my poems. This surprises her.

When I informed Mom that my poem, “The Farmer’s Wife, Circa 1960,” had been selected for inclusion in Poetic Strokes 2014, a regional poetry anthology published by Southeastern Libraries Cooperating, she responded with a humbleness that truly reflects her character.

“I didn’t know I led such an interesting life,” Mom said.

To most, she likely hasn’t. She grew up on the southwestern Minnesota prairie, attended Mankato Business College after high school, then worked at a government office in Marshall until marrying my father shortly thereafter and settling onto a farm near Vesta.

My parents holding my older brother, Doug, and me in this January 1957 photo.

My parents, Elvern and Arlene Kletscher, holding my older brother, Doug, and me in this January 1957 photo. Rare are the photos of my farm wife mother.

There she assumed the role of farm wife, the title given rural women long before stay-at-home mom became a buzzword. She no longer lives on the farm, having moved into my paternal grandmother’s home in Vesta decades ago.

As an adult, I now understand that her life as a farm wife was not particularly easy—raising six children on a limited income; doing laundry with a Maytag wringer washer; tending a garden and then canning and freezing the produce; doing without an indoor bathroom…

I sometimes wonder how her life would have unfolded
had she not locked eyes with my father on the dance floor…

–Lines one and two from “The Farmer’s Wife, Circa 1960″

Although I’ve never asked, I expect she dreamed of time just for herself. On rare occasions she and my dad would go out on a Saturday evening.

With those thoughts, I penned “The Farmer’s Wife, Circa 1960.” As much as I’d like to share that poem with you here, today, I cannot. That debut honor goes to Poetic Strokes, a copy of which will be gifted from me to my mom, the woman who has led an extraordinary life. Not extraordinary in the sense of great worldly accomplishments, but rather in the way she has treated others with kindness, compassion and love. Her depth of love for family, her faith and her empathy and compassion have served as guiding principles in my life.

I am proud to be the daughter of a farmer’s wife.

The cover of Poetic Strokes/Word Flow. Image courtesy of SELCO.

The cover of Poetic Strokes/Word Flow. Image courtesy of SELCO.

I AM HONORED, for the sixth time, to have my poetry published in Poetic Strokes, a Library Legacy funded project (through Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund) that promotes poetry in southeastern Minnesota and specifically in SELCO libraries. Each library will have a copy available for check out near the end of March or in early April, National Poetry Month.

This year my county of Rice joins Winona County with the highest number of poets, six from each county, included in the Poetic Strokes section of the anthology. I am the sole Faribault poet with five from nearby Northfield.

Twenty-three poems from 21 poets in five of SELCO’s 11 counties will be published in Poetic Strokes 2014.

There were 196 poems submitted by 112 poets. Two published poets with PhDs in English literature and a third poet who is a former English teacher, fiction writer and contributor to the League of Minnesota Poets judged the entries.

Says SELCO Regional Librarian Reagen A. Thalacker of the judging process:

The general sense I received when the poems came back is that our judges felt that there was a great variety in subject matter and skill and that they were impressed with many of those that were submitted. There was also the overwhelming sense of having enjoyed thoroughly the opportunity to read the works submitted.

Additionally, the anthology includes 28 poems penned by youth ages 14 – 18 (or in high school) residing within SELCO counties. Twenty-eight poems chosen from 111 submissions will be featured. What an encouragement to young poets to be published in the Word Flow portion of this project.

For me, a seasoned poet, selection of “The Farmer’s Wife, Circa 1960″ encourages me to keep writing in a rural voice distinctly mine, inspired by the land and the people I love.

FYI: Click here to read a full report on Poetic Strokes/Word Flow 2014, including a list of poets selected for inclusion in the anthology.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Connecting art & poetry at Crossings & I’m in February 7, 2014

CONNECTING ART AND POETRY enhances both.

Crossings at Carnegie, housed in a former Carnegie library, is a privately-owned cultural visual and performing arts center in Zumbrota. I love the rural atmosphere with the hardware story and grain elevator just down the street.

Crossings at Carnegie, housed in a former Carnegie library, is a privately-owned cultural, visual and performing arts center in Zumbrota. I love the rural atmosphere with the hardware story and grain elevator just down the street. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

And I am pleased, for the second time, to have my poetry selected for inclusion in an annual poet-artist collaboration at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota.

Lilacs, up close. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Lilacs, up close. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

A juried artist will create a work of art based on my poem, “Lilacs,” one of 26 poems chosen from among more than 200 submissions for inclusion in Poet Artist Collaboration XIII.

Lucky thirteen. I’ve written poetry long enough, though, to understand that winning has nothing to do with luck, but rather with skill. Writing poetry is hard work. But when you nail a poem, like I did with “Lilacs,” it’s worth every minute anguishing over a word or a line.

“It was exciting to receive the outpouring of exceptional work from so many talented poets for this collaboration,” writes Marie Garvin of Crossings in an email. “Jurists told us they (the poems) were a pleasure to read, and selecting those to be included was a difficult task.”

The poems paired with art will go on display in April, National Poetry Month, at the Zumbrota gallery and gift shop. Poets will read their poems and artists will briefly discuss their artwork during a reception set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 10.

Connie, right, and I posed for a photo after a 90-minute presentation in which poets read their poems and artists talked about how their art was inspired by the poem. Note Connie's "Pantry Jewels" painting just above my head to the left. If I could buy this $490 watercolor on aqua board, I would in a snap.

Connie Ludwig, right, and I pose for a photo after a 90-minute presentation in which poets read their poems and artists talked about how their art was inspired by the poem. Note Connie’s “Pantry Jewels” painting just above my head to the left. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

Two years ago, my poem was selected for Poet Artist Collaboration XI. Goodhue artist Connie Ludwig created a watercolor, “Pantry Jewels,” inspired by my poem, “Her Treasure.” (You can read about that by clicking here.)

That earlier poem and “Lilacs” draw on childhood memories from my native southwestern Minnesota, a major influence in my writing.

Plenty of lilacs to gather in the spring.

Plenty of lilacs to gather in the spring. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

This marks the second time “Lilacs” has been recognized. This past summer, judges chose “Lilacs” as a Work of Merit in the 2013 Northwoods Art & Book Festival in Hackensack. Says Northwoods Arts Council Poetry Event Chair, poet and blogger Sue Ready “…we all see your work as creative and poetic that engages the reader.”

Sue is right. I always attempt to connect to the reader, whether through imagery, sensory words, emotions and more. Poetry should be an experience.

You can read “Lilacs” by clicking here.

I am grateful for this latest opportunity to share my poetry. And to have an artist find inspiration in my words and create a work of art pleases me even more.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

I’ve been Freshly Pressed again November 30, 2013

“I HOPE YOUR BLOG is ready to welcome some new readers…”

That's my post, labeled "Barn Memories," featured today on Freshly Pressed.

That’s my post, labeled “Barn Memories,” featured today on Freshly Pressed.

With those words, I recently learned that my November 25 blog post, “An essay of barn photos & memories,” earned Freshly Pressed status on WordPress.com. (Click here to read that post.)

In the WordPress blogging world, that’s akin to winning an Emmy or an Oscar or something similar, although you could perhaps argue that I am exaggerating. I think not, though, given the half a million plus WordPress bloggers world-wide. (Click here to reach the Freshly Pressed page on WordPress.)

That said, I’d like to thank you, my readers, for your faithful following of Minnesota Prairie Roots. Just over 600 of you now follow my blog via subscription and I am grateful for each of you.

I’d also like to thank my husband, who is very much a part of this blogging journey via his support and company.

The Freshly Pressed tweet about my barn post.

The Freshly Pressed tweet about my barn post.

And, finally, I’d like to thank the editors at WordPress who daily hand-pick eight posts to feature on Freshly Pressed. My barn post is featured today on Freshly Pressed.

Here’s what WordPress editor Ben Huberman wrote in an email:

You struck such a delicate and moving balance in this piece between letting the photos you took speak for themselves, and sharing with your readers the memories and emotions they invoke in you. It’s a lovely, well-executed post that deserves a wider audience.

How sweet is that to get an editor’s comment on your work? It’s invaluable and uplifting and reaffirming.

An old-fashioned farm along Wisconsin Highway 21.

An old-fashioned farm along Wisconsin Highway 21. This is one of the photos published in my winning post.

About the barn photos featured in my winning post… I shot all of them in mid-October while traveling through northeastern Wisconsin. And by traveling, I mean traveling. All six images were photographed from the passenger side of our family van while traveling down the highway at 55 mph. I had one, maybe two, opportunities to capture each photo I showcased. There was no stopping to compose a frame. Rather, I set my camera at a fast shutter speed, anticipated and clicked. That’s it. Either I got the photo or I didn’t. Clean windows help, too. Ask my husband about bottles of window cleaner and paper towels.

The words I paired with the six barn photos came from my heart, from my memories of laboring in my childhood dairy barn on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. Images and smells and textures and sound flowed from my memory onto the keyboard in a piece rich in imagery, heartfelt in emotions.

That combination of from-the-heart writing paired with just the right photos made this post stand out among the hundreds of thousands of others published on WordPress, apparently. For more information on how Freshly Pressed posts are selected, click here.

The homepage of WordPress.com, as photographed Thursday morning. My "In praise of preserving country churches" blog post is on the lower right.

The homepage of WordPress.com, as photographed in July 2010. My “In praise of preserving country churches” blog post is on the lower right. The story focuses on Moland Lutheran Church, rural Kenyon, Minnesota.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been featured on Freshly Pressed. My July 7, 2010, post, “In praise of preserving country churches,” (click here to read) was Freshly Pressed as was my June 11, 2012, post, “Testing the track during a Soap Box Derby trial run in Faribault” (click here to read).

A screen shot of the Tuesday, June 12, 2012, Freshly Pressed on the WordPress homepage. My post is featured in the bottom center. I've been Freshly Pressed twice since I began blogging, meaning my posts were chosen, for a single day, as among the top 10 WordPress posts in the world.

A screen shot of the Tuesday, June 12, 2012, Freshly Pressed on the WordPress homepage. My post is featured in the bottom center.

To earn Freshly Pressed status three times rates as rewarding for a blogger like me, who is undeniably passionate about writing and photography. Thank you for joining me on this blogging journey.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thoughts on writing a winning poem August 19, 2013

EVERY TIME I PEN a poem, I wonder, will it inspire, touch, resonate with the reader? Is my poem worthy to be seen by others? Is the poem truly finished, ready to reveal? Or should I hold on to it longer, refine it, anguish over whether I’ve chosen the right word, the right phrase?

At some point I must tell myself, “You’re done.” I must make that leap of faith, overcome those self doubts and share what I’ve written.

For me that usually comes in entering a poetry competition. Even if I’m confident I’ve written a decent poem, it’s still scary to put yourself out there. But I have and I’ve discovered, in the process, that I can write poetry.

My award.

My most recent award. You can click on the “About” section of my blog to see the other honors I’ve garnered for my poetry. Photo courtesy of Sue Ready.

That was reaffirmed for me again this past Saturday when my poem, “Lilacs,” was selected as one of six Works of Merit in the sixth annual Poetry Recognition Event during the Northwoods Art and Book Festival in Hackensack.

Attendees at the Northwoods Art & Book Festival view showcased poems and then vote for their favorite in the Popular Choice awards.

Attendees at the Northwoods Art & Book Festival view showcased poems and then vote for their favorite in the Popular Choice awards. Photo courtesy of Sue Ready.

I’m in the company of other Minnesota poets, Louise Bottrell, Marlys Guimaraes, Miriam Kagol, Joanne Moren and Candace Simar, chosen by a poetry committee for the merit honor.

Lilac, close-up

Sweet lilacs.

As I often do, I turned to my past, to my memories of growing up on a southwestern Minnesota farm, to write “Lilacs.” I remembered the annual gathering of lilacs from the bush on my Uncle Mike’s farm, the next field over. And I connected that memory to today:

Lilacs

Breathing in the heady scent of lilacs each May,
I remember my bachelor uncle and the gnarled bushes,
heavy with purple blooms, that embraced his front porch
and held the promises of sweet love never experienced.

He invited his sister-in-law, my mother, to clip lilacs,
to enfold great sweeps of flowers into her arms,
to set a still life painting upon the Formica kitchen table,
romance perfuming our cow-scented farmhouse.

Such memories linger as my own love, decades later,
pulls a jackknife from the pocket of his stained jeans,
balances on the tips of his soiled Red Wing work shoes,
clips and gathers great sweeps of lilacs into his arms.

Plenty of lilacs to gather in the spring.

Plenty of lilacs to gather in the spring.

To read poems by two of the other merit winners, click here to reach the website of Poetry Committee Chair Sue Ready, herself a poet. The winning poems will also be published in Hackensack area newspapers.

I am grateful to those like Sue and others and to the Northwoods Arts Council, which sponsors events like that in Hackensack. Without these opportunities, I might still be that poet wondering if my poetry rates as good enough for anyone to read other than me.

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Mankato’s newest public art project: “Poetry Walk and Ride” August 5, 2013

MANKATO HAS LAUNCHED its newest form of public art—poetry posted on signs in parks and along recreational trails.

My artsy effort to illustrate this post.

A scene I created to illustrate the poetry project.

The Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride is designed “to inspire and encourage poets of all ages, to provide public art in our communities and to encourage exercise,” says Yvonne Cariveau who suggested the project to the Southern Minnesota Poets Society of which she is a member.

Serving on the committee for the Mankato and North Mankato CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour, an exhibit of annual rotating outdoor sculptures, Cariveau envisioned a similar concept for poetry.

The Poets Society embraced the idea (member Susan Stevens Chambers organized a contest) and, with support from the cities of Mankato and North Mankato and numerous businesses, the project took off.

My husband and I listen to one of my selected poems.

My husband and I listen to one of my selected poems, “The Thrill of Vertical.”

Today 34 poetry signs are up, mostly in Mankato, with a few in North Mankato, for reading and listening. Yes, listening. Poets recorded their poems, which can be accessed via phone, dialing (507) 403-4038 or scanning a QR code.

Me, next to my "Off to Mankato to 'get and education'" poem posted near Glenwood Gardens.

Me, next to my “Off to Mankato to ‘get an education’” poem posted near Glenwood Gardens.

Two of the 34 poems, 27 selected in a competitive process, are mine.

"Off to Mankato to 'get and education'", posted near Glenwood Gardens, in the background in this photo.

The setting in which one of my poems is posted near Glenwood Gardens.

You’ll find “Off to Mankato to ‘get an education’” near Glenwood Gardens close to the intersection of Glenwood Avenue and Division Street. The poem was inspired by my arrival in the autumn of 1974 as a freshman at Bethany Lutheran College, located not all that far from the posted poem.

"The Thrill of Vertical," located next to Hiniker Pond.

“The Thrill of Vertical,” next to Hiniker Pond.

My second poem, placed at Hiniker Pond Park in what seems like North Mankato but is really Mankato, also was prompted by my college year experiences. In “The Thrill of Vertical,” I write about zipping down the curving and hilly streets of Mankato on my 10-speed bike. Interestingly, the street I remembered in writing this poem is where “Off to Mankato to ‘get an education’” is posted along a recreational trail. Back in the 70s, there was no such trail.

Reflecting on that hurtling ride, I can’t help but think how stupid I was to fly at such speeds, back hunched, hands gripping racing handlebars, no helmet and two narrow bicycle wheels separating me from unforgiving pavement.

Today that crazy college kid abandon is forever captured in words, now published for all to see and recorded for all to hear. Until next June, when the 2013 poetry signs will come down and new ones will be erected.

Likewise, the other published writers—all of whom had to live within a 50-mile radius of Mankato, who range in age from seven to over 70 and are anywhere from new poets to recognized published poets—wrote about topics such as Mankato history, the river, Fudgsicles, family, mentors and more.

The challenge in writing the poems, for me anyway, came in the restrictions of 40 characters or less per line in a poem limited to 18 lines. It is a good exercise for any poet, to write within such confines, to value every letter, every space, every word.

One hundred twenty poems, submitted in specified age categories for those in third to 12th grades and then in adult divisions of humorous and serious, were anonymously judged. Doris Stengel, past president of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, considered the adult entries while Peter Stein, League of Minnesota Poets youth chairperson, judged the youth poems. It is always rewarding as a poet to know that your work was selected on the basis of merit and quality rather than by name recognition.

The poems are posted in locations like this, near the shelter house in Hiniker Pond Park. the unobtrusive signs are about the size of a standard sheet of paper.

The poems are posted in locations like this, along a trail near the shelter house in Hiniker Pond Park. The unobtrusive signs are about the size of a standard sheet of paper.

In addition to the 27 winning poems, seven poems from notable Mankato area poets are among those posted.

Reaction to the poems thus far has been enthusiastic, says project initiator Cariveau, herself a poet. Her humorous poem, “Dreams of Coldstone,” was among those selected.

“People,” says Cariveau, “love the poems and are surprised by them.”

As for my reaction, I appreciate a project that makes poetry accessible. Those who may not otherwise read poetry likely will in an outdoor setting. Short poems. Easily read or heard. Non-intimidating. This is public word art at its best.

FYI: To read a list of the winning poets and the titles of their poems, click here.

For a map showing the locations of the posted poems, click here.

To learn about the Southern Minnesota Poets Society, click here.

You can hear me read my poems by calling (507) 403-4038 and then punching in 427 for “The Thrill of Vertical” and 416 for “Off to Mankato to ‘get an education’”.

Information on the 2014 Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride contest will be posted early next year on the SMPS website.

A chapbook of this year’s poems will also be published and will be available for purchase via the SMPS website and perhaps at other locations in Mankato.

P.S. I did not showcase other poems here in photos because I was unaware of their locations when I was in Mankato to photograph mine.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating four years of blogging at Minnesota Prairie Roots July 15, 2013

Me and my camera, a tool in the writing profession I love.

Me and my camera, a tool in the writing profession I love.

FOUR YEARS AGO TODAY, I launched Minnesota Prairie Roots.

As the adage goes, “time flies when you’re having fun.” After writing more than 1,400 posts, I’m still passionate about blogging.

My approach to blogging hasn’t changed since publishing that initial post on July 15, 2009. I pledged then to write from the heart—about everyday life, about places I visit, things I do, observations I make about the world around me.

I told you then, and I’ll repeat now, that my writing reflects my down-to-earth personality and my appreciation for the simple things in life. I am the real deal. I really do like small towns and gravel roads, the prairie and sunsets and endless skies.

I’m the woman who hangs clothes on the line, relishes a good book, shops garage sales, savors the tang of rhubarb crisp, breathes in the intoxicating scent of freshly-cut alfalfa and appreciates Minnesota, the place I’ve called home for nearly 57 years.

Via my posts, I strive to show you those ordinary, yet extraordinary, people and places often overlooked.

To you, my readers, thank you for supporting Minnesota Prairie Roots via your readership and your comments. Some of you have become my real life friends, an unexpected blessing along this blogging journey.

I am also grateful to individuals like Bob Collins at Minnesota Public Radio for featuring my work in his online NewsCut column and to the folks at MinnPost for often choosing my posts for Minnesota Blog Cabin. Both have introduced my work to wider audiences.

Twice my work has been Freshly Pressed, meaning my posts have been selected as among the best in the world for a single day on WordPress.com.

Four years ago I was averaging about 50 daily views. Today that number is close to 700.

I also owe deep thanks to my dear husband, Randy, without whom I could not continue to pursue my passions of writing and photography. He has always been my strongest supporter and I am grateful for his encouragement.

My goal remains to someday earn money from blogging. Unrealistic? Perhaps. But a writer and photographer can dream. I’ve already sold quite a number of photos through my blog. So if you need/want a photo for professional or personal use or need a proofreader, editor or writer, contact me. You’ll find my email on my “About” page.

In all I write, photograph and do, and how I live my life,  I remain true to my values and upbringing rooted deep in my native Minnesota prairie.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Bringing poetry to recreational trail users in Mankato & I’m in June 9, 2013

NOT EVERYONE EMBRACES POETRY. I get that.

But I appreciate how, in recent years, poetry has become more accessible to Minnesotans. Perhaps, in the process, a few non-poetry lovers have learned to like poetry, to appreciate its value as a form of expression, as an art, as a link to the past, and as a connection to each other and the land and emotions.

These new public poetry forms have surfaced on sidewalks, billboards, and in motionpoems, for example.

My artsy effort to illustrate this post.

My artsy effort to illustrate this post.

And now, in Mankato and North Mankato, poetry will be posted on signs along biking and walking trails as part of the newly-launched Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride.

I am delighted to have two of my poems—“Off to Mankato to ‘get an education’” and “The Thrill of Vertical” selected from among more than 120 submissions for this project supported by business and corporate sponsors and the cities of Mankato and North Mankato.

The contest was open to anyone living within a 45-mile radius of Mankato with suggested themes of CityArt sculptures, Mankato history or culture, nature and/or family and relationships. Lines were limited to sixteen with a maximum of forty characters per line. There were serious and humorous divisions for adults and general poems for several youth brackets.

I tapped into my past, my four years attending college in Mankato—Bethany Lutheran and Minnesota State University, Mankato—to write my winning poems:

Off to Mankato to “get an education”

With typewriter and suitcase
stashed in the trunk of the rusty Impala
alongside my blaze orange backpack,
I plow into Mankato from the farm.

Seventeen years old with barn scent
clinging to clothes, I settle in
with my cheerleader roommate
and her sprawling stereo system.

We share nothing in common,
except a love of art, hers visual,
mine an artful appreciation of words
clacking, line by line, upon paper.

Remember, this was the late 70s, dear readers.

You’ll need to visit Mankato to read my second poem, among the 27 selected during anonymous judging by Doris Stengel, past president of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, and by Peter Stein, League of Minnesota Poets youth chairperson. The poems are expected to be in place by the end of June.

As a bonus, poets are recording their poems so bikers, walkers and others can pause along the trails and hear the poems read via their phones.

Bonus two, the Southern Minnesota Poets Society, which coordinated the contest, is publishing a chapbook of the winning poems.

I don’t have details yet on where my poetry will be located. But, be assured that when the poems are posted, I’ll head to Mankato to check mine out and some of the twenty-five others like “Everything is Sky Tonight,” “The Sounds of the Red Jacket Trail” and “Night Fishing.”

JUNE 11 UPDATE: My poems will be posted at the intersection of Glenwood Avenue and Division Street and at Hiniker Pond Park in Mankato.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

You’re invited to hear two Faribault poets read & talk about poetry November 29, 2012

WITH ONLY A WEEK until the presentation, I figured I better buckle down and finish my prep work. After all, wasn’t I the annoying mom sometimes harping on my once high school-aged kids to finish their homework?

“Don’t leave it until the last minute,” I would urge, not that they heeded my advice.

Peter C. Allen and I will present in the Great Hall, a lovely room with Greek murals on the second floor of the library.

I decided to listen to myself and have been preparing for a poetry presentation Faribault poet Peter C. Allen and I will give at 6 p.m. next Thursday, December 6, in the second floor Great Hall of Buckham Memorial Library, 11 East Division Street, Faribault.

I expect Peter is not really stressing at all about this event as he enjoys reading his poetry to an audience.

Me? Not so much.

Connie Ludwig, right, and I pose with her watercolor, “Pantry Jewels” (above my head), inspired by my poem, “Her Treasure.” We were participants in Poet-Artist Collaboration XI at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota in April.

I’m counting on Peter, whom I first met last spring at a poet-artist collaboration in Zumbrota, to help me ease into our joint poetry reading and poetry educating. He’s the kind of guy who makes you feel comfortable and who reads with the confidence of a seasoned poet.

And that he is. Several weeks ago Peter invited my husband and me to dinner in his home with wife, Maria, and their adult son, Peter Allen (the sixth). After our savory meal, I asked the elder Peter to read some of his poetry. When my friend pulled out a thick binder of his poetry, I spouted, “You’ve written way more poetry than me.”

That matters not to Peter. Nor, I suppose, should it matter to me. After all, we each write poetry when the muse calls—or in my case when a contest deadline approaches.

The 2012 volume of Poetic Strokes in which Peter Allen and I are both published.

Peter and I were both winners in the Southeastern Libraries Cooperating 2012 Poetic Strokes competition, which is why we were invited to speak at the library next week. Of the 202 submissions from regional poets, only 30 poems were selected for publication in Poetic Strokes: A Regional Anthology of Poetry from Southeastern Minnesota, Volume 6.

I’ve also been published in volumes 2, 3 and 4 of Poetic Strokes.

Lake Region Review 2, right, in which I was recently published, and LRR 1, to the left, in which I was published in 2011. I will read from both volumes during the poetry presentation next Thursday evening. This weekend you can listen to writers read their works from LRR 2 on selected western Minnesota radio stations. Go to lakeregionwriters.net and click on “Upcoming Events” for details. LRR 2 writers will also read and discuss the craft of writing at  Zandbroz Vareity, 420 Broadway Ave., Fargo, North Dakota, at 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 9, where I shot this photo.

I’ll read six of my poems from those four volumes plus an additional 11 published elsewhere. Even I did not realize, until I began gathering my work, that I’d been published this often. Do I have enough published work to possibly think about compiling a book of my poems?

Additionally, I’ll share tips on poetry writing and a sampling of places Minnesota poets can submit their poetry right here in Minnesota.

The most unusual place my poetry has been published, on billboards as part of the Roadside Poetry Project in Fergus Falls.

You can also expect me to use visuals in presenting several of my poems. Initially I’d considered using PowerPoint, but worried that I couldn’t pull that off given I have no idea how to prepare or technically present a PowerPoint. Lack of equipment at the library for that type of presentation caused me to drop that thought and rely instead on my ingenuity. (No, I’m not even going to hint at what I have planned.)

Besides listening to Peter and me read our poetry and talk about poetry and our other writing experiences (including blogging), you will leave with a gift—a free copy of the 2012 Poetic Strokes, compliments of SELCO.

Peter and I will also treat you to snacks and beverages.

So…if you’re up for an hour of poetry followed by a question-and-answer period, or simply want to meet me, the real person behind this blog, join Peter and me at 6 p.m. next Thursday, December 6, at the Faribault library. Peter and I promise a casual and relaxed (hopefully for me) atmosphere with down-to-earth poetry you will (hopefully) understand and enjoy.

Full disclosure: I am being paid a small stipend to present on poetry at the library. However, I was not asked to write this post and did so because I often promote such cultural events in my community and elsewhere.

The Poetic Strokes project is funded in part or whole by Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 
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