Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Embracing the writing & art of the Northern Great Plains at SDSU April 19, 2017

“The Prairie is My Garden,” a painting by South Dakota artist Harvey Dunn, showcases the prairie I so love. Here I’ve photographed most of a print which I purchased at a yard sale. I bought the art because I liked it and only learned afterward of its value and prominence. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


ONE OF MY FAVORITE PRINTS, “The Prairie is my Garden,” is rooted in South Dakota. The artist, Harvey Dunn, was born in a claim shanty near Manchester, west of Brookings.

I’ve been to Brookings. Once. While in college, I accompanied a roommate to her hometown where her dad owned the John Deere dealership. I don’t remember a lot about that visit except the fancy house in which my roommate’s family lived and our attendance at the annual Hobo Day Parade. That tradition of South Dakota State University, which peaks in a Jackrabbits football game, is going on its 105th year.

As you’ve likely surmised, Brookings is rural oriented, the university known for its ag focused majors. Students, for example, make ice cream and cheese from milk produced at the SDSU Dairy Research and Training Facility. This is a hands-on college that draws many a rural raised student.


The promo for Oakwood 2017 features “Dancing with Fire,” the art of Samuel T. Krueger. Promo image courtesy of Oakwood.


This university, where students work with farm animals and where the prairie paintings of a noted Plains artist are housed in the South Dakota Art Museum, seems the ideal setting for Oakwood, a literary journal. Featuring the work of SDSU students, staff and alumni and also of greater Brookings artists/writers and others in the Northern Great Plains region, the magazine releases this Thursday. According to the Oakwood website, the journal embraces a regional identity.

I am happy to be part of that identity with the inclusion of my poem, “Ode to my Farm Wife Mother,” inspired by my mom. She raised me and five other children on a dairy and crop farm about 1 ½ hours northeast of Brookings in Redwood County, Minnesota.


A gravel road just north of Lamberton in Redwood County. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Most of the poetry I write is based on prairie life. I write with a strong sense of place. The endless open space and wide skies of the prairie lend themselves to creativity. Within the stark setting of rural southwestern Minnesota, I noticed details—the strength of the people, the blackness of the earth, the immensity of the setting sun, the sharpness of a winter wind, the quiet of stillness. I can trace my poetry, my photos, everything I create, to that rural upbringing. I am honored to have my latest poem selected for inclusion in Oakwood 2017 as a writer from the Northern Great Plains.


FYI: A public reception will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 20, at the SDSU Briggs Library & Special Collections for writers and artists whose work is included in Oakwood 2017. Readings and talks will be featured. Because I live nearly four hours away, I can’t be there. When I can share my poem with you, I’ll do so.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


28 Responses to “Embracing the writing & art of the Northern Great Plains at SDSU”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Another feather in your hat for sure and I love that this one is a tribute to your sweet mom. Congrats. Can’t wait to read it when you are able to share it with us.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    Awesome!!!! Huge CONGRATS!!! Looking forward to reading your inclusion. LUV the painting!!!!!

    • When I purchased the prairie print, I had no idea it was by a famous artist. I googled the name and was pleased that I found this painting at a really good low price. It’s one of my favorite art pieces.

      And thank you.

  3. Caryl Larson Says:

    I live in Brookings. I have a spare bedroom you can use. And you can see the collection of original Harvey Dunn works at the South Dakota Art museum. Just saying…….

  4. Vibha Ravi Says:

    Congratulations. Wish you the best with your work.

  5. Thanks for sharing your good news. And I, too, am really drawn to your print and would enjoy seeing more..

  6. Valerie Says:

    Congratulations again, Audrey. I look forward to reading your poem.

    My girlfriend is from the Brookings area and went to SDSU and her daughter lives there now. We’ve been to the Hobo Day parade and a football game. 😉 I will forward this post to her.

    BTW – our granddaughter was born this morning!

  7. Bernadette Thomasy Says:

    So much interesting news in this post; I love the print and can identify with your sense of place as important to your writing. Congrats on being included in SDSU literary magazine.

  8. Jackie Says:

    This is great Audrey, I cant wait to read your poem! I love that print as well, what a great “find” for you!

  9. What a yard sale find. My mothers side of the family is all about 15 miles outside of Brookings. I’d love to move there some day

  10. Thank you for sharing your talents. Harvey Dunn is also one of my favorites. We are almost neighbors My family settled on the SE side of Lake Poinsett in the 1880’s. I live in Arlington now.

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