Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Poetry & more in Paul Bunyan land August 18, 2011

The lake side of the Hackensack Lending Library. To the left stands Lucette Diana Kensack..

Lucette Diana Kensack

SEVERAL SUMMERS AGO while vacationing in northern Minnesota, my family stopped in Hackensack, 50 miles north of Brainerd. The initial draw to this town of 285 was the 17-foot tall statue of Paul Bunyan’s sweetheart, Lucette Diana Kensack. I appreciate kitschy roadside art. What can I say?

Two other discoveries, however, trumped seeing Lucette. A stone’s throw from Lucette, along the shores of Birch Lake, sits the cutest log cabin—a Works Progress Administration project and today home of the Hackensack Lending Library.

And just down the street from Lucette and the library, I found the sweetest pink fairy tale cottage.

Those small-town treasures marked my introduction to Hackensack.

Now, fast forward to last summer. I wasn’t back in Hack, not physically anyway. Rather my poetry was among poems displayed at the town’s annual Northwoods Art and Book Festival. During that event, the featured poets are invited to read their poetry. Fest-goers can also vote for their favorites with six poems selected for “Popular Choice” awards. Six poems are also recognized as “Poems of Merit.” All of the original and unpublished poems are posted without author names attached.

I didn’t attend last year, didn’t win and didn’t deserve to win. My poetry wasn’t worthy of an award.

This year my poetry is back at the Northwoods Festival set for this Saturday, August 20, and I’m more confident that I’ve actually written poems that could win an award. Oh, I’d love to tell you which poem is mine (or it could be both poems that I submitted; I haven’t been told). But I won’t unfairly sway the voting. Suffice to say my rural background shines in my writing.

If Hackensack wasn’t such a long drive from Faribault, I’d be there taking in the poetry, the art, the music, the book-signings, the food. However, if you’re in the Brainerd lakes area or parts north on Saturday, check out the Northwoods Art and Book Festival from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and then tell me all about it by submitting a comment.

Voting for the “Popular Choice” awards begins at 9 a.m. and closes at 1 p.m.

If you’re already thinking, “Audrey, I don’t like poetry,” rethink your thinking. I promise you that my poetry rates as down-to-earth, understandable and not at all stuffy.

This whole concept of getting poetry out to the public via a display like the one in Hackensack pleases me. Just like the Roadside Poetry billboards in Fergus Falls. I was fortunate enough to win the spring competition and have my four-line poem plastered across four billboards there.

These new poetry venues, and the increasingly popular sidewalk poetry in cities like St. Paul, Mankato and now Northfield, are bringing poetry to the people. That’s a good thing because, in reality, how many of us actually pick up a book of poetry for leisure reading?

Minnesota poet Todd Boss and designer/animator Angella Kassube are also making poetry even more appealing by utilizing visuals in their acclaimed motion poems. Click here to read some of those.

Poetry has certainly evolved through the years, a necessity to keep writers interested in writing it and readers interested in reading it.

Professionally, I’ve only begun to unfold my wings as a poet. Even publicly calling myself a “poet” still sounds foreign to my ears. But with publication in two magazines and four anthologies, soon to be five (The Talking Stick, Volume 20, published by Park Rapids-based Jackpine Writers’ Bloc); winning the spring 2011 Roadside Poetry competition; inclusion at the Hackensack festival; and recent notification that one of my poems will publish in the Lake Region Writers Network’s first literary magazine, I finally feel worthy of the title “poet.”

The last of four billboards featuring my Roadside Poetry spring poem.

The sweet fairy tale house in Hackensack, located near Lucette and the park and photographed in 2009.

"Curve around the corner/You are free/To change directions/Or your mind," reads this poem by Marlys Neufeld of Hanska and imprinted in a Mankato sidewalk.

HOW DO YOU FEEL about poetry? Do you read it? Why or why not?

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


7 Responses to “Poetry & more in Paul Bunyan land”

  1. Amy Says:

    I do read it, and dabble in writing it too. It sometimes takes more concentration than I can give it.

    I grew up north of Hackensack and am greatly sorry that a cafe called the Snack ‘n’ Shack closed. It was so fun to say “the Snack ‘n’ Shack in Hackensack.”

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Amy, I would encourage you to enter your poetry in some competitions if you haven’t already done so.

      I agree that poetry takes much concentration, and time. I don’t think the average person likely realizes that. Word selection is so vital in writing poetry. When you nail the right words, you know it and the verses sing. I also write and sell greeting card verses and that type of writing is more challenging for me than a full-blown magazine feature article. Again, it;s the need to precisely select and sculpt words that presents the challenge.

      I do like the name of that little snack shack north of Hack. Too bad it’s gone; sounds like my kind of place.

  2. Amy Says:

    I did submit a poem to the food writing journal Alimentum, and they’ve accepted it, but I don’t know the publication date yet. I took a class at the Loft with poet Jude Nutter, whose work is wonderful. She’s a great teacher. I’d like to take the same class again, just for the experience.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Congratulations on getting a poem accepted in Alimentum! That’s wonderful. A class at The Loft sounds, well, just fabulous.

  3. Amy Says:

    It was. The thing with the Loft is not just getting a good instructor, but the students–they can make or break the class. The poetry class had great, fun, interesting students.

  4. djhcakes Says:

    I read poetry because it is so very beautiful and can sometimes take you to far away places and tell about love, peace, war, family, beauty, country, home and many things.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      All excellent reasons for reading poetry. Thanks for checking in to Paul Bunyan land from “down South.”

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