Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by 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