Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

And the winner is… April 21, 2015

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SUE READY, I don’t know if you’ve ever won at bingo, or even played the game.

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

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

But today your number tumbled from the cage—or more accurately, your name was pulled from a hat—as the winner of 2015 Poetic Strokes and Word Flow, A Regional Anthology of Poetry from Southeastern Minnesota.

Poetic Strokes 2015 Publication Cover

 

Later this week I’ll drop an autographed copy of the collection, which includes my poems, “Wednesday Night Bingo at the Legion” and “Class Reunion” in the mail to you.

Thank you for entering this give-way and to all of the Minnesota Prairie Roots readers who shared their favorite poets as part of this contest.

Sue named Billy Collins, two-time U.S. Poet Laureate and perhaps America’s most popular current poet, as her favorite. Here’s what she had to say about Collins’ poetry:

His poems appeal to a wide range of literary tastes. He is a master at capturing the nuances of everyday life and inspiring readers to wonder and think about the simple things in their lives. Often Collins’ wry sense of humor comes across in the poems. He does not take himself too seriously. Collins is a master at engaging his reader in the first stanza by starting small not making too many demands and setting up the scene. Then he makes the poem more complicated and a little more demanding as he moves it along to completion. Each line is simply stated but layered in meaning.

Other readers’ favorites were Robert Frost, Lewis Carroll, Donald Justice, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Carlos Williams and Pablo Neruden. (Two readers also chose me as their favorite.)  Click here to learn why readers chose these poets.

Winner Sue is not only a reader, but also a writer of poetry. Visit her blog, Ever Ready, to learn more about this Minnesota woman and her love of poetry, cooking, travel and more. She coordinates the annual August Northwoods Arts Council Art & Book Fair poetry competition in Hackensack. I am blessed to call Sue my friend.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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In which I discover the art treasures of St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges April 20, 2015

SOMETIMES I FEEL like I am missing out on a whole big wide world of art.

Not because art is absent here in outstate Minnesota. It isn’t. Recent years have seen a renewed effort to bring the arts—visual and performing—to communities like mine outside the Twin Cities metro area. Faribault has the Paradise Center for the Arts. Neighboring Owatonna, Northfield and Waseca also have art centers. Even the community of Zumbrota, population around 3,400, has the thriving Crossings at Carnegie.

So there are plenty of opportunities to engage in the arts at a local and regional level without venturing into Minneapolis or St. Paul, which I really prefer to avoid given my aversion for traffic congestion and big cities in general.

Despite an abundance of wonderful local art, I was still missing that segment of art created by renowned artists or by artists outside of Minnesota.

That is until I recently realized that I can see that type of art, too, right in my backyard.

In the center of this display space outside the Flaten Art Museum is a poster for the "Selma to Montgomery" exhibit on the Civil Rights Movement.

Promotional posters posted in the Dittman Art Center at St. Olaf College show the wide variety of artistic offerings.

Two colleges in Northfield, a 22-minute drive from my Faribault home, both sometimes showcase notable art from their collections in exhibits that are open to the public. They also bring in outside artists and traveling exhibits. Entrance to Carleton’s Perlman Teaching Museum and St. Olaf’s Flaten Art Museum is free. No cost and no traffic are a winning combination for me.

Items from St. Olaf's art collection were displayed in the recent "Interrogating Genders" exhibit.

Items from St. Olaf’s art collection were displayed in the recent “Interrogating Gender” exhibit.

Together, these two prestigious private colleges hold more than 6,500 paintings, fine art prints, photographs, sculptures and more in their collections.

Entering the Flaten Art Museum Atrium, I encountered this mega sculpture just outside the "Selma" exhibit.

Entering the Flaten Art Museum Atrium, I encountered this mega sculpture just outside the “Selma” exhibit.

I discovered Carleton’s gallery space about 18 months ago and St. Olaf’s just recently, when I arrived at the college atop the hill to view Selma to Montgomery: Marching Along the Voting Rights Trail, an exhibition of Stephen Somerstein’s photos.

Walking across the hall from one museum space to another, I found Michon Weeks' "Wheel Within Wheel (#1-44) paintings hung along the atrium wall. The acrylic on paper on wood panel is a visual inventory of items in her Northfield garage.

Walking across the hall from one museum space to another, I found Michon Weeks’ “Wheel Within a Wheel (#1-44) paintings hung along the atrium wall. The acrylic on wood panel paintings are a visual inventory of items in her Northfield garage.

After studying Somerstein’s remarkable images, I strode across the hall to see the Interrogating Gender exhibit, since closed.

Rosa Bonheur's "Cows in Pasture."

Rosa Bonheur’s “Cows in Pasture.”

The 16th Century "Madonna and Child, an oil painting on panel by Adriaen Isenbrandt of Belgium.

The 16th Century “Madonna and Child” by Adriaen Isenbrandt of Belgium.

The angle at which I photographed "Archaic Greek Statue of a Woman" makes it appear as if the Italian terra cotta sculpture is studying the art on display.

The angle at which I photographed “Archaic Greek Statue of a Woman” makes it appear as if the Italian terra cotta sculpture is studying the art on display.

There I marveled in getting close up to photographs taken by Andy Warhol. Yes, the Andy Warhol. I stood in reverent awe before a 16th Century oil painting on panel of Madonna and Child by Adriaen Isenbrandt. I enjoyed art from Africa and Italy and the Cows in Pasture pencil on paper by Rosa Bonheur.

A wood sculpture from Africa, artist unknown, and titled "Seated Maternity Figure."

A wood sculpture from Africa, artist unknown, and titled “Seated Maternity Figure.”

I could have reached out and touched the art, except I didn’t. It was that comfortably accessible and intimate. I didn’t have that feeling I often get in galleries of “be careful and don’t touch,” although I was aware of cameras on the premise.

My husband peruses the art.

My husband peruses the art.

I only wish I’d realized years ago that I could simply walk onto these college campuses and view art by well-known and other artists and students, too.

I got down low to photograph the Greek woman sculpture encased in glass.

I got down low to photograph the Greek woman sculpture encased in glass.

Now that I know, I’ll be back.

FYI: All of the exhibits mentioned in this post are no longer showing. Both colleges will be featuring a Senior Art Show in their exhibit spaces.

Please check back for a story and photos of the Selma to Montgomery exhibit.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Lindström/Lindstrom’s missing umlauts April 16, 2015

A section of LIndstrom's business district.

A section of  Lindstrom’s business district.

IT’S ALL A BIT AMUSING in a Minnesota sort of way.

Some folks in Lindström, “America’s Little Sweden” located about 40 miles north of the Twin Cities, noted the omission of the umlaut over the letter “o” on newly-erected official Minnesota Department of Transportation highway signage. They weren’t happy.

The town's 1908 water tower, converted to a Swedish coffee pot in 1992, sports umlauts.

The town’s 1908 water tower, converted to a Swedish coffee pot in 1992, sports umlauts.

Now if you’re of Swedish heritage and/or a stickler about absolutely proper linguistics, you can understand this discontent. I studied German in high school and college and am well aware of the importance of umlauts in correct pronunciation of a word. An umlaut denotes a specific sound.

A Swedish dala horse and  Yule goat posted on a business honor this community's Swedish heritage.

A dala horse and Yule goat posted on a business honor Lindstrom’s Swedish heritage.

I expect if I lived in Lindström, where the Swedish heritage is an integral part of the town’s identity and a tourism draw, I might be miffed, too, about that missing umlaut.

In MnDOT’s defense, it was simply following state law which allows only standard alphabet usage (no umlauts or such) on traffic control devices.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has since intervened, issuing an executive order on April 15 that approves addition of those two missing dots above the “o.”

In the meantime, The New York Times, the Associated Press and many other media outlets have picked up this, shall I call it, distinctly Minnesotan story.

I noticed in a television news story on the missing umlaut, that signage on the city’s center of government reads Lindstrom City Hall and Community Center rather than Lindström City Hall and Community Center. On the city’s website, the umlaut is sometimes there, sometimes not. I find that discrepancy interesting.

During my visit, I was more interested in what the bakery had to offer.

During my visit, I was more interested in what the bakery had to offer than an awareness of umlauts.

So I wondered about other signage in this community of 4,442 which my husband and I visited briefly last October, when I wasn’t noting the absence or presence of umlauts. I checked my few photos and here’s what I found:

Umlauts on the Swedish coffee pot, but none on the bakery sign.

Umlauts on the Swedish coffee pot, but none on the bakery sign.

No umlauts on the bakery bench signage either.

No umlauts on the bakery bench signage either.

Interesting, huh?

Apparently no umlauts in the word "julekaka" on this bakery signage.

Inside the bakery which specializes in Swedish treats.

Umlaut or not, Lindström has garnered national attention. And that can only benefit local tourism in Lindström/Lindstrom.

BONUS PHOTOS:

More bakery treats.

More bakery treats.

Many choices at this bakery.

Many choices at this bakery.

Nothing Swedish, as far as I know, about Deutschland Meats.

Nothing Swedish about Deutschland Meats. Love that kitschy brat art atop the business.

A must-visit antique shop in Lindstrom.

The must-visit Lindstrom Antique Mall, where you will find Swedish merchandise.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Note that the absence of umlauts in cutlines is not intentional, but due to my not knowing how to add them there, if that is even an option.

 

A photo documentary of Minnesota barns & thoughts on their demise

Barn, 7 se MN

 

BARNS ONCE SHELTERED cows, pigs, sheep, a farmer’s livelihood. Some still do. But most don’t.

 

Barn, 14 se MN

 

Today all too many barns stand empty of animals and are used instead for storage of recreational vehicles and other possessions. Others are simply slumping into heaps, like rotting carcasses with backbones exposed.

 

Barn, 10 se MN

 

I fear barns will soon become memories rather than strongholds, symbols, anchors of farm sites. Their demise has been steady, sure. I see it every time I drive through the Minnesota countryside. Empty barns. Weathered siding. Curling shingles. Boarded windows. Weeds overtaking former cow yards.

 

Barn, 15 se MN

 

I understand the financial burden of keeping up these massive structures. Sometimes it just is not in the budget to maintain a barn that provides zero income.

 

Barn, 11 se MN

 

Back in the day when I rolled a wheelbarrow brimming with ground feed down the barn aisle, forked straw onto cement for cow’s bedding, shoved manure into the gutter, dodged streams of hot cow pee, shoveled pungent silage before stanchions, the barn and associated source of revenue were more important than the house. Long before my childhood home had an indoor bathroom, the barn had a gutter cleaner.

 

Barn, 18 se MN

 

Times have changed. Many farmers no longer raise cattle or hogs or milk cows. They plant cash crops and work off the farm.

 

Barn, 19 se MN

 

And so days and weeks and months and years pass and the empty barns, without the humid warmth of animals, without the daily care of the farmer, without the heartbeat of life, begin to die.

 

Barn, 21 se MN

 

Except for those that are saved.

 

Barn, 9 se MN

 

FYI: All of these barns were photographed in southeastern Minnesota, mostly around Pine Island and Oronoco.

Click here to learn about Friends of Minnesota Barns, a non-profit dedicated to celebrating and preserving Minnesota’s rural heritage.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating National Poetry Month with a give-away April 15, 2015

WHAT IS POETRY if not a connection to a person, place, thing, emotion, event or time?

Poetry is rhythm and music, a poet’s voice versing words.

It’s love of language. It’s thoughts flowing from brain through fingers to keyboard onto screen. It’s words rolling off the tongue, pleasing the ear.

Strong verbs. Cohesiveness. Tight writing.

Poetry pushes the writer to write with conciseness. Sparse. Choose each word with care. Delete those words that don’t belong. Banish the cliché. Write. Set aside. Edit. Edit some more until you finally call it done.

Then dare to put your poetry out there.

Large-Blue-RGB-National-Poetry-Month-Logo

In celebration of National Poetry Month in April, I am giving away an autographed copy of 2015 Poetic Strokes & Word Flow, A Regional Anthology of Poetry from Southeastern Minnesota. This collection includes 55 poems by poets from 10 southeastern Minnesota counties. Two are mine: “Wednesday Night Bingo at the Legion” and “Class Reunion.”

Southeastern Libraries Cooperating sponsors this annual competition and publication of this two-part anthology. The first section, Poetic Strokes, features winning poems from adult writers in the SELCO region, this year 30 poems by 27 poets. Word Flow is a competition for writers ages 14-18, with 25 poems from 25 young poets published in the 2015 anthology.

Poetic Strokes 2015 Publication Cover

TO ENTER:

Submit a comment on this post naming your favorite poet and why you chose this poet. I will then randomly select one winner from all qualifying entries. The winner’s name will be posted here next week with instructions on how to claim the prize.

Entry deadline is Sunday, April 19. Only individuals living in the U.S. are eligible to enter.

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EVEN IF YOU DON’T WIN, you can still get your hands on this anthology. Copies of Poetic Strokes & Word Flow are available for check-out from all 37 public libraries in the SELCO system. Minnesotans who live outside this library region can borrow a copy through the statewide interlibrary loan system, MnLINK. 

Click here to read my poem, “Wednesday Night Bingo at the Legion.”

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota remembers Abraham Lincoln 150 years after his assassination April 14, 2015

THE PISTOL WEIGHS HEAVY in my hand. Cold metal and wood against warm flesh nestled in my palm. I am surprised, really, by the weight and smallness of this curved 1840 Philadelphia Derringer, which is exactly like the deadly weapon John Wilkes Booth fired at President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865.

An 1840 Philadelphia Derringer, like the pistol used to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

My husband holds an 1840 Philadelphia Derringer. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2009.

I wrote that paragraph in 2009 after attending a meeting of the Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable. There an area collector showcased Lincoln memorabilia. I’ve never forgotten that petite pistol he allowed me to cradle.

Today, especially, I feel the weight of that Derringer. April 14 marks 150 years since Booth shot our 16th President as he watched the play, Our American Cousin, in Ford’s Theatre in our nation’s Capitol.

The assassination of Lincoln—the President who, via the Emancipation Proclamation set slaves free in “rebellious states”—stands as a memorable and pivotal moment in U.S. history.

A Lincoln postcard which a collector brought to a Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable meeting several years ago.

A Lincoln postcard which a collector brought to a Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable meeting in 2009.

Today we honor this remarkable leader of humble roots, author of the Gettysburg Address wherein he vowed “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

An original photo of Abraham Lincoln in Roger's collection.

An original photo of Abraham Lincoln from a southern Minnesota collector’s collection.

I’m also particularly fond of a lesser-known Lincoln quote: “All that I am, or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”

Promotional poster for the Lincoln event in Northfield, Minnesota.

Promotional poster for the Lincoln event in Northfield, Minnesota.

Throughout our nation and even here locally in Rice County, folks are publicly remembering Lincoln on the 150th anniversary of his death. At The Grand Event Center, The Northfield Historical Society this evening presents Our American Cousin, A Night That Changed Our Nation, The Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Held in an 1899 historic opera house/theatre with balcony booths much like those in Ford’s Theatre, the event includes summary presentations on the assassination and the nation’s reaction; a snippet from Our American Cousin; and a re-enactment of Lincoln’s assassination. Tickets are available in advance and at the door, although there is no guaranteed seating the day of the show.

An ink drawing of Abraham Lincoln by my artist friend, Rhody Yule, now deceased.

An ink drawing of Abraham Lincoln by my artist friend, Rhody Yule, now deceased.

At 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 16, the President of the Wood Lake Battlefield Preservation Association will arrive on horseback at the Faribault Senior Center, 19 West Division Street, Faribault. There, at the monthly meeting of the Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable, Tom Hosier of Rochester, dressed in period costume, will talk about Lincoln’s assassination. The presentation is free and open to the public.

A poster promoting the upcoming Lincoln's Traveling Troupe performance.

A poster promotes the upcoming Lincoln’s Traveling Troupe performance.

In Mankato, Lincoln’s Traveling Troupe will present the “true and dramatic story of Lincoln’s assassination” and its immediate aftermath in The Heavens Are Hung in Black, a play written by Lincoln historian and re-enactor Bryce O. Stenzel. Show times are 7 p.m. Friday, April 24, and Saturday, April 25, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 26, at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church Dining Room.

How will you remember Lincoln today or this month?

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How I won at bingo without playing the game April 13, 2015

The bingo callers. My first place winning photo.

John and Lavonne call bingo at the North Morristown, MN., Fourth of July celebration. This photo won first place in the People Category of the National Mutual Benefit annual photo contest. This image also helped inspire my winning bingo poem. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

BINGO! We have a winner!

Here’s my winning poem, “Wednesday Night Bingo at the Legion,” recently published in 2015 Poetic Strokes & Word Flow, A Regional Anthology of Poetry from Southeastern Minnesota, Volume 9:

Wednesday Night Bingo at The Legion

Wooden balls rattle in the cage,
orbs of numbers and letters tumbling
in the comforting rhythm of a rural rite
that transcends time and generations.

All eyes focus on the officiant, The Bingo Caller,
a slight elderly man with wisps of fly-away hair.
He grasps the selected ball between forefinger and thumb,
pulls mic to mouth and purses his chapped lips.

Silence presides in that sacred moment
when daubers poise above cards,
when hearts beat fast with anticipation,
when nothing seems as blessed as the hope of a win.

“O-62,” he pronounces with faithful clarity of conviction
to the congregants seated on worn folding chairs,
ice clinking against glass in the dim light of The Legion
where service to country rates reverent respect.

From the back corner her voice erupts. “Bingo!”
A collective sigh heaves disappointment
as The Bingo Caller pauses, confirms, then declares
The Blessed Benediction: “We have a winner!”

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YOU, TOO, CAN BE A WINNER. Check back on Wednesday for a give-away.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Poem reprinted with permission from SELCO (Southeastern Libraries Cooperating), Rochester, MN.