ON THE OTHER SIDE of the log cabin, traffic thrummed in a steady rhythm, the noise sometimes detracting from the five young women dancing barefoot in the grass and from the poets reading in to the wind.
Still, despite the traffic noise from busy U.S. Highway 169 in St. Peter, the focus remained primarily on “When Water Dreams: A Celebration,” hosted Sunday afternoon at the Treaty Site History Center.
I was part of that event thanks to Mankato photographer Kay Herbst Helms. Kay’s latest photo project, “Water Rights,” sidebars “Water/Ways,” a Museum on Main Street exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution showing through September 25 at the Nicollet County Historical Society host site in St. Peter.
Sunday afternoon, along with other invited southern Minnesota poets, I read “In which Autumn searches for Water,” a poem published four years ago as part of an “It’s All One Water” collaboration in Zumbrota. I clarified before reading my poem that I wrote this when our region was suffering a drought, unlike now when Minnesota has been deluged with rain. Here’s the third verse in my five-verse poem:
But she finds at the pond site, the absence of Water,
only thin reeds of cattails and defiant weeds in cracked soil,
deep varicose veins crisscrossing Earth.
I’ve come to enjoy poetry readings—listening to the rhythm of words penned by those who, like me, are moved to string words together in a lyrical way that touches emotions.
With water as the theme for Sunday’s celebration, poets read of lakes and rivers, of rain and of drought, of ships steaming immigrants across the ocean, and more.
Those clustered in lawn chairs, on blankets and standing—some folding paper cranes for the Minnesota State University, Mankato, 1000 Peace Crane Project—focused on the scene unfolding before them.
Dressed in blue, members of Rural Route Dance Ensemble moved with such grace, like water lapping at the shore, waves rolling in the ocean, rain falling from the heavens. I won’t pretend to be an expert in dance; I have viewed few dance performances. But dance, like poetry, is open to interpretation.
Life experiences, emotions and more shape poetry—how it is written, read and interpreted.
The poetry readings of Good Thunder writer Susan Stevens Chambers mesmerized me. Susan has a melodic voice that soothes and comforts like the sound of rushing water. Except her words don’t rush. They flow. I especially savored Susan’s selected readings from her recently published compilation of rural-themed poems, Good Thunder, Blue Earth, published by River Place Press.
As this poet read, her long blue dress swayed in the wind and I thought of gentle waves. Of water.
FYI: Check back for a post on the Smithsonian “Water/Way” exhibit, including more information on Kay Herbst Helms’ photography exhibit, “Water Rights.”
© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling