Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Poets, photographers & penny pinchers connect in Zumbrota October 21, 2012

FRIDAY EVENING I SUCCESSFULLY read a poem about water before an audience of other poets and photographers and guests in an historic Zumbrota, Minnesota, theatre as part of the “It’s All One Water” exhibit.

I tell you this because I prefer to quietly write and read poetry (to myself) as opposed to standing before an ocean of seats in a darkened theatre with my lips pressed close to a microphone. But practice, practice, practice made all the difference in my feeling fairly confident and comfortable this go around.

(Yes, I’ve read in the State Theatre previously and you can read about that poet-artist collaboration by clicking here.)

My poem,  left, was one of 28 selected and hung in a juried writing competition. Photos themed to water were also part of the “It’s All One Water” show which continues through the end of October at Crossings at Carnegie, 320 East Avenue, Zumbrota.

You’ll just have to imagine me reading my poem:

In which Autumn searches for Water

Water. The wayward word rises in a faint rasp,
barely a whisper above the drone of buzzing bees
weaving among the glorious goldenrods.

I strain to hear as Autumn swishes through the tall swaying grass,
striding toward the pond, yearning to quench her thirst
in this season when Sky has remained mostly silent.

But she finds there, at the pond site, the absence of Water,
only thin reeds of cattails and defiant weeds in the cracked soil,
deep varicose veins crisscrossing Earth.

She pauses, squats low to the parched ground and murmurs
of the incessant chorus of frogs in the spring,
of Water which once nourished this marshland.

Autumn heaves herself up, considers her options
in this brittle landscape too early withered by lack of rain.
Defeat marks her face. Her shoulders slump. She trudges away, in search of Water.

The “It’s All One Water” event included so much more than reading and listening to poetry and viewing photos on the subject of water. It was about mingling with other writers and artists, about connecting, or reconnecting.

Poets, photographers and others mingle over wine and snacks at Crossings prior to the readings a block away at the State Theatre.

I chatted briefly with poet Patrick L. Colemen of Minneapolis, whom I met at Crossings at Carnegie, (the arts venue supporting the show) last spring, and caught up with him on the mystery book he is writing.

I talked with John Calvin Rezmerski of Mankato, a poet who is eons ahead of me, having published several books of poetry and having taught writing at the college level. I met him last year at a poetry-photography show/reading in Mankato. More connecting there and encouragement from other poets.

That is, I have found, the true benefit of attending events like the Friday evening reception and reading in Zumbrota. Connecting. Encouragement for me personally in my writing.

More mingling at Crossings, this time after the poetry readings. To the right is the photo “Tiffany” by Tim Rabe of Rochester. All of the “It’s All One Water” photos are for sale.

Among all the unfamiliar faces was the familiar face of Peter Allen, a gifted Faribault poet who lives several blocks away and a street over from me. Peter and I will be presenting on poetry at Buckham Memorial Library in Faribault in early December. Peter gave me two thumbs up for my poetry reading Friday evening.

I don’t know how Faribault High School English teacher Larry Gavin (he’s taught all three of my children) would have graded my reading. But he was in Zumbrota, too, on Friday evening reading his two poems. He, like Rezmerski, has published several volumes of poetry and reads with the confidence of a seasoned poet who truly has mastered the craft of entertaining an audience.

Likewise Susan Waughtal of Oronoco entertained the audience with her “Farm Water Cycle” poem which resonated with me, a former farm girl. Afterward I chatted with Susan and her husband. They are, she says midlife crisis farmers (farming since 2008) who live and farm on a 10-acre sustainable farmstead, raising chickens (and more), tending bees, operating community supported agriculture, and supporting music and the arts… Susan recently quit her off-farm job to work full-time on the farm.

When Susan told me about the old granary converted into an antique/thrift/arts shop on Squash Blossom Farm and how much she thrills in thrifting, I connected even more for I, too, am a thrifter.

Poets and photographers and penny pinchers. Wonderful company to keep on a Friday evening in October.

The festive exterior of Crossings at Carnegie, a privately-owned art center housed in a former Carnegie library.

FYI: For more information about Crossings at Carnegie, which collaborated with the Zumbro Watershed Partnership on “It’s All One Water,” click here.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling