Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

An aha moment while reading poetry January 15, 2019

Mira Frank reads the works of published Minnesota poets, here from County Lines during an event at the Treaty Site History Center in St. Peter in August 2016. I also read. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.


MANY TIMES I’VE READ my poetry aloud at events. I’m not a fan of public speaking. But it’s getting easier to stand before an audience and share what I’ve written. Practice helps.

When I read six poems at Content Bookstore in Northfield several days ago, I experienced a real connection with the audience. I don’t know if it was the intimate setting in a cozy independent bookstore or the people in attendance or the poems I selected or my frame of mind. Probably all. But something clicked that made me realize my poetry meant something to those hearing it.


Five of my works (poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction) published in Volume 26 of The Talking Stick, Fine Lines.


This proved a profound moment—to recognize that words I crafted into poetry sparked emotional reactions. I had created art. Literary art.

People laughed when I read a poem about my 40th high school class reunion and selecting “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” as our class song.


TS 19 in which my poem, “Hit-and-Run,” received honorable mention.


But, when I read an especially powerful, personal poem titled “Hit-And-Run,” I observed facial expressions change to deep concern, even fear. I struggled to get through the poem about my son who was struck by a car in 2006. I glanced at his then middle school science teacher sitting in the audience and remembered the support she gave our family. When I finished the final lines of the poem with an angled police car blocking the road to my boy, I sensed a collective sadness. I felt compelled to tell the audience, “He was OK.”

After that, I composed myself to read four additional poems. I read with inflection, with all the emotion a writer feels when writing a poem. I unleashed those feelings into spoken words. Words that, when verbalized, hold power beyond print. Poetry, I understood, is meant to be read aloud to fully appreciate its artistic value.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


19 Responses to “An aha moment while reading poetry”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    How wonderful to feel the connection to the audience while you read your selections. I can only imagine the pride and satisfaction you must have felt . Good on ya.

  2. Claudette Says:

    How wonderful to read this. 😊

  3. Littlesundog Says:

    I think it’s impossible for a listener to get the true feeling and spirit of a poem, unless the writer is reading it aloud with their own inflection and emotion behind it. I’m sure public reading takes some getting used to, but oh the beauty that unfolds when one can truly express with intent, the message or feeling and thought behind the poem.

  4. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    I’m astounded to know poetry reading can gather people. It is such an important part of literary prose, I wonder if it’s appreciation is being passed on in our schools. I recently found a piece on Marlene Hyatt Meehl who, according to her obit, wrote several poetry books. You picked up her book at the garage sale benefit for the school and wrote about it. That poem might have an influence on those writing on the FB page for the town “You know you grew up in Faribault when….”. Brian Klier still has his tribute page to her live, it gives the poem. I was tempted to post it, but the comments were so severe and perhaps didn’t apply to the posters or reminded them even more of their negative feelings, it would only make matters worse. I was relieved to see some counterpoints appear. Bless you for keeping poetry alive. http://klier.us/history/meehl/

    • Yes, people still appreciate poetry, especially in Northfield and Mankato.

      Thanks for passing along the link about Marlene. That was quite sometime ago when I purchased her book. Yes, people can be mean. Especially online.

  5. Bella Says:

    It’s always good to gauge the response of the group while reading poetry outloud. I am sure your words were well received !

  6. Valerie Says:

    It was wonderful to be in the audience listening to you read your poems…it does make it special when the author reads their own work.

  7. Jackie Says:

    I especially like to hear it read by the poet. I know from first hand experience Audrey that you bring the words to life…and YES, there is a connection!

  8. Happy you gained confidence while reading your lovely poems aloud. I like your sense of humor. Thank you for sharing your work!!

  9. Audrey,

    Poetry is SOoooo POWERFUL, & I can honesty admit has changed my life.

    I would love to hear you read aloud! What a thrill. Come to Duluth!

    And I love when words can cause a physical reaction in one’s body!

    I mean, isn’t that what all writers want!?

    xxx Much appreciation for your words!

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