Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From Northfield: Reading & talking poetry January 12, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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My husband, Randy, took this photo of me while I read the first of six poems at Content Bookstore.

AS MUCH AS I SAVORED sharing my poetry with a rapt audience at Content Bookstore in Northfield on Thursday evening, it was the conversation afterward that delighted me.

A young woman sitting several chairs away walked over and told me just how much she enjoyed my poems. I’d noticed her even before the readings by five Faribault-connected poets began. She sat with a small notebook on her lap, pen poised.

Turns out she’s a first-year college student in Northfield and an emerging poet. She had some questions for me. As we talked, I encouraged her first to write what she knows. And to make every word count. “Use strong verbs,” I said. “And no adverbs.”

A man standing next to us laughed. “I haven’t heard that in awhile,” he said. Then we all three laughed.

We agreed that writing poetry, because of the sparse words, is among the most challenging of writing disciplines. Yet the reward of getting a line, a word, just right, well, it’s an incredible feeling. I looked at the young woman who was, by then, nodding and smiling. She understood. And in that moment of locking eyes, she confirmed that she’s a poet passionate about the craft. Like me, she loves words and language. She possesses that spark which flames words into poetry.

I advised her to keep writing, to notice details, to engage all the senses—not only visual—when crafting her poems. Write and rewrite and submit and learn from rejection.

I regret that I didn’t catch her name or give her my contact information. But I hope that in some small way my knowledge, my experience, my advice, will encourage her to continue developing her poetic skills. Follow your passion, whatever you do in life, I impressed upon her. Write because you must, not necessarily with the expectation of becoming a famous poet. She’s considering a writing-related degree.

Then I turned my attention to the man who’d edged on the sideline of our conversation. He asked if I had an agent. “Should I?” I asked. His question surprised me, thus the popped-out-of-my-mouth response. Do poets have agents? He wondered how I’d gotten my work so broadly published. I reconsidered and shared that I’ve submitted to mostly state-wide and regional publications.

I regret that I didn’t ask his name either. I appreciated his interest in my writing and in my photography. There’s a certain joy that comes in talking shop with those who share a love of words, of writing and, especially, of poetry.


Special thanks to Northfield Poet Laureate Rob Hardy for organizing the poetry reading and to Content Bookstore for hosting the event. Thank you also to poets Peter Allen, Larry Gavin, Kristin Twitchell and John Reinhard for sharing their poetry with us. Finally, to all who attended the reading, thank you for embracing poetry and supporting those of us who write it.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


11 Responses to “From Northfield: Reading & talking poetry”

  1. Jackie Says:

    I have had the honor of hearing you read twice and I enjoyed every minute. I often pick up my copy of “The Talking Stick”, as I sit in my quiet cabin, such a thoughtful gift from you. Your talents as a writer, poet and photographer are impressive. I hope to hear your read again soon!

  2. I am always thrilled when a friend has success and you have been one of my most successful friends when it comes to writing and sharing it. Congrats and I am sure that that young student will remember your words and carry them with her.

    • Thank you, Beth Ann. Success comes not only from hard work and dedication to the craft, but also from supportive friends, appreciative readers and listeners, dedicated editors, a strong community of writers and much more. Combined, the literary arts can thrive.

  3. Susan Ready Says:

    Your words of advice seemed practical and encouraging to this young woman. And your writing epitomizes how sparse carefully chosen words can give each line a poetic voice.

  4. Are the books that your poems are published in available for sale? I’d love to have some of your work! 🙂

  5. I love that you take the time to share your passions with others and to give encouragement and support as well as advice and insight 🙂 I am a reader and through my experiences and photography I became a writer. Life has me blowing in a different direction lately, however; still writing and photographing when I have the spare time. Happy Day & Congrats – Enjoy!

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