Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Celebrating the regional poetry of Minnesota March 27, 2012

THREE APPARENTLY is the lucky number connected with this year’s soon-to-be-released sixth Poetic Strokes anthology published by my regional library system, Southeastern Libraries Cooperating.

At least, on the surface, with 30 poems by 30 poets from 13 communities, all those threes seem to point to that conclusion.

But I don’t bank success on luck—even if my poem of three verses—is among those that published.

Now I’m not privy to the criteria judges used to evaluate the 202 poems submitted by 202 poets from 34 communities within the 11 SELCO counties. But I trust their judgment to select the 30 best works.

Penning a poem worthy of publication takes time, effort and talent. I know. I’ve received my share of dismissals, including last year’s rejection of my three poems submitted to the Poetic Strokes competition. In retrospect, I can see now that those poems needed refining.

While none of us like rejection, it is often the best/only way to show us we can do better. On several occasions I’ve rewritten rejected poems and then had them accepted elsewhere.

I realize, too, that judges’ personal preferences in poetry and the publication itself also factor into acceptance or rejection of a poem. For example, when I’ve submitted to Lake Region Review and The Talking Stick, I’ve considered that these are Minnesota anthologies rooted in the region. I’ve successfully published in both.

Any of you who’ve read my poetry understand that I am a regional writer, with most of my poems connected to the land, specifically my native southwestern Minnesota. I am rooted to the geography of the prairie and to my experiences growing up there. That connection defines my distinct, poetic voice.

Take my poem, “Writing poetry as the sun rises,” just published in Poetic Strokes 2012. At first glance, the title seems to suggest I’ve veered from my voice. Not so. If not for my life-long deep appreciation of prairie sunrises and sunsets (even though I no longer live on the prairie), I may not have looked up from my computer one morning to appreciate the rising sun and then write about it.

Apparently my Minnesota prairie roots voice resonates with judges as I’ve entered numerous competitions and had my poems accepted for publication or display, including in the upcoming Poet-Artist Collaboration XI at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota. Click here to learn more about that gallery show.

Five of my poems have also published in three volumes of Poetic Strokes. Make that six in four volumes. (This year’s competition allowed submission of only one poem.)

Copies of Poetic Strokes 2012 will be available for check-out at all SELCO libraries during the first week of April, National Poetry Month. Because the anthology was funded by the Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, the volume will not be sold. Published poets will each receive five complimentary copies.

To read a list of the poets published in this year’s Poetic Strokes—including five from my county of Rice—click here.

As long as we’re talking poetry here, SELCO will launch its Poets at the Library tour with an appearance by Morris-based writer Athena Kildegaard at 7 p.m. Monday, April 2, at the Owatonna Public Library. Kildegaard, a current Minnesota Book Award poetry finalist with Bodies of Light, has also written Rare Momentum. Both were published by the respected Red Dragonfly Press in Red Wing. Kildegaard’s third poetry collection, Cloves & Honey–love poems, has just been released by Nodin Press.

Poets Laura Purdie Salas, Barton Sutter, Su Smallen and Todd Boss—one of my personal favorites—are also part of the SELCO tour. Click here to learn more about Poets at the Library.

Now, I am not so naïve as to believe that all of you like and embrace poetry. But if you haven’t read poetry in awhile, then I’d suggest you try reading it again. Today’s poetry is not the rhyming, elitist poetry of your youth.

I will be the first to tell you, emphatically, that I find some poetry so totally out there that I have no hope of understanding it. That’s OK. Find a poet whose voice resonates with you and then listen and appreciate the words that touch your soul.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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