Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The process of penning publishable poetry February 19, 2015

“WE HAVE A WINNER!”—last sentence in the poem “Wednesday Night Bingo at The Legion.”

Two, to be accurate.

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 poem, “The Farmer’s Wife, Circa 1960,” was published in the 2014 Poetic Strokes. The “WORDFLOW” part of the anthology features selected poems by youth. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

The two poems I submitted to the 2015 Southeastern Libraries Cooperating poetry competition have been selected for publication in Poetic Strokes. It’s always an honor to have my work chosen in a competition that solicits entries from 11 southeastern Minnesota counties. In recent years, about 200 poems were submitted annually with 23 – 32 selected for publication. I don’t have stats yet for 2015.

This year I penned the winning “Wednesday Night Bingo at The Legion” and “Class Reunion.”

Three published poets considered mechanics, tone, accessibility, content and creativity in double-blind judging the entries.

So how did I come up with these poems?

The bingo callers. My first place winning photo.

My winning photo of bingo callers at the 2013 Trinity North Morristown Fourth of July celebration. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

I’ve had bingo on the brain. Last summer I earned first place in a national photo contest with an image of two bingo callers. Within the past year, my mom moved into a long-term care facility where bingo seems to be the most common activity. I hear the latest bingo updates from her during our weekly Sunday evening phone conversations. My middle brother and his wife rave about bingo at The American Legion in Lamberton. And a month ago I purchased a bingo set so we can play the game at family gatherings.

Not quite Vegas, but bingo balls at a church festival.

Bingo balls at a Minnesota church festival. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Tapping into all of those bingo-related references, I wrote “Wednesday Night Bingo at The Legion.” I focused on the setting, the bingo caller, the anticipation, the thrill of winning. It worked. I won.

My husband and I pose for a photo that I told him will be our Christmas card. In the photo to the right is Lindsey, right front, whom I have not seen in 40 years. He promised to return for the next reunion.

Photo booth images from my class reunion.

In writing “Class Reunion,” I remembered my 40th high school class reunion held last September. That reunion proved particularly memorable given a photo booth was rented for the evening. I used that as the focal point in my poem.

My poetry is sometimes personally introspective, as in “Class Reunion.”

Sometimes, though, I write more like a creative historian or journalist. I feature a snippet of time, perhaps a glimpse of a place, a shadow of a tradition. I condense a moment, pack it with a punch of words.

Perhaps you write poetry. Perhaps you read poetry. Perhaps you would rather avoid poetry all together.

As a seasoned poet, I embrace this form of writing with a passion. To craft a poem is to dance with words. Sometimes my writing glides like a waltz. Other times I dip and twist in a tango of ideas. There are moments when I swing into a square dance rhythm, words linking together in perfect step. Occasionally I slump into a funk, unable to move, simply listening to jazzy blues.

But when it all comes together, oh, my, the dance is flawless, or as near flawless as I can perfect.


IF YOU WRITE POETRY or simply read it, share your thoughts on the genre. What ignites your creativity? How do you view poetry? Add anything you wish to share on the topic.

P.S. I hope to share my winning poems at a later date. The anthology publishes at the end of March.

For now, if you wish to read one of my published poems, click here. This post will also give you more insight into my poetry writing.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


27 Responses to “The process of penning publishable poetry”

  1. Dan Traun Says:

    Congratulation on your poetic successes.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    Congrats again. You are rocking winning all of these competitions but I know it is not easy to crank them out. Just like any good writing it takes time and revisions and more revisions to come up with the right tone and cadence. I personally like to read poetry that is filled with imagery that fills my head with visions. Thanks for sharing today.

    • Thanks, Beth Ann. You’re right. Writing poetry requires time and revisions. But when everything finally comes together, the feeling is magnificent. Maybe I’ll have enough poems soon to consider submitting as a collection for publication. Just like you with your ever-growing pile of devotionals.

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    A Bingo poem, what a perfect way to capture small town (and big city neighborhood) life. Congratulations.

  4. Audrey, on a related topic I thought I’d share one of mine with you and your readers. Enjoy please.

    That Old Barn

    That old, once berry-red barn,
    scourged over time
    by the whips of the wind
    and the rain.
    Once the symbol
    of a flourishing farm,
    is now reduced
    to a skeletal frame.

    The lofts, the walls and the floors
    like the bones of the farmer himself,
    are now sagging
    through so many days.
    And the burden of time
    has taken it’s toll
    through the bales
    of many harvested hays.

    And now gone is the equine,
    the bovine and hog,
    and the hay turned to straw,
    blown away.
    Gone too are the dreams
    as gone as the dogs,
    but still,
    the old memories stay.

    You see, it’s more to me
    than just a barn or a structure
    that’s collapsing
    out of lack of repair.

    It’s a reminder of summers
    of a time long ago
    and I visit my youth,
    in there.

    Jack Downing
    May 2013

    Copyright© Jack Downing, aka Jake @poemsandponderings.wordpress.com. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reprinted or disseminated in any manner without the expressed written consent of the author. JRD 2/19/15

  5. virgil Says:

    Way to go Audrey!

  6. Congrats – love your poetry and that you share your poetry and your successes with poetry 🙂 Happy Day Indeed!!!

  7. Katie S Says:

    Congratulations, Audrey!

  8. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Congratulations! And there are so many ways to view poetry, depending on how it lives in ones life. I view it as a way to share a pivotal moment, a snapshot (it’s the perfect complement to what you do as a photographer), a shift in thought. It allows us to take a small thing and dig deep, surprise ourselves at what we discover in an ordinary thing. It gives us a way to process the world around us, shift the lens through which we look, celebrate, mourn, protest, think. I love your description of how you write poetry!

  9. Marneymae Says:

    Such great photos!!

  10. Marneymae Says:

    & congratulations!

  11. hotlyspiced Says:

    Congratulations, Audrey, on all your success as a poet. That’s so exciting! And so well deserved. To have two poems in the one book is such an honour xx

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