Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Public poetry in Mankato & I’m in, again November 15, 2019

That’s my poem, viewed through the opening in the flood wall in downtown Mankato, Minnesota.


ALONG A BUSY STREET in the heart of downtown Mankato near Reconciliation Park, across a duo set of train tracks and then through an opening in a flood wall mural, you’ll find a work of literary art. Mine. A poem, River Stories.


Me, next to my posted poem, River Stories. Photo by Randy Helbling



Photographed from the opening in the flood wall, the mural showcases the Minnesota River, to the right.


My poem was recently selected for inclusion in the Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride, a public art project that now boasts 41 poems posted on signs throughout Greater Mankato. This, my fifth poem picked in recent years for the project, will be displayed for the next two years at the site along the Minnesota River Trail hugging the river. I am honored to share my poetry in such an accessible way via this ongoing effort of the Southern Minnesota Poets Society.



To hear River Stories, call 507-403-4038 and enter 406 when prompted. (That’s not me reading.)


This 67-ton Kasota stone sculpture stands in Reconciliation Park. It symbolizes the spiritual survival of the Dakota People and honors the area’s Dakota heritage. The park is the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history. The U.S. government tried and hung 38 Dakota here following the U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862. The location of my poem near this park seems fitting as part of the city’s river stories.


The Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride is a competitive process which challenges Minnesota poets to pen poems of no more than 18 lines with a limit of 40 characters per line. River Stories is short at only nine lines. Just like crafting copy for children’s books, creating poetry is among the most challenging of writing disciplines. Every word must prove its worth. Poetry has made me a stronger and better writer.


The Minnesota River, which runs through Mankato, inspired River Stories.


In writing poetry, I often reflect on my past and on a strong sense of place. Rural. My previous Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride poems include Cornfield Memories, Off to Mankato “to get an education”, The Thrill of Vertical and Bandwagon.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “Public poetry in Mankato & I’m in, again”

  1. Ruth Says:

    How satisfying for your words to be shared so dramatically. Love the photo of you with your poem.

    • It’s always an honor to get my work out in the public eye and I really love this type of project that makes literary art so accessible. Several years back, a poem I wrote was posted on billboards in central Minnesota as part of the Roadside Poetry Project. And more recently, a composer wrote music for one of my poems (and those of some other Minnesota poets). Those poem-songs were then performed by a choir at two concerts in Rochester, Minnesota. Now that was fun and an absolute joy and honor.

  2. That is wonderful! Congratulations. Imagine, everyone who passes by there can now read your poem. 🙂

    • Thank you. I saw four young people after I photographed my poetry sign. They walked right by, didn’t even pause to read the poem. So, yeah, not everyone cares about poetry. But at least the signs are there should people be interested.

  3. Susan Ready Says:

    Wow Audrey you are becoming quite the celebrity with all your published works and along the way gaining such name coverage. This is all so exciting!!! CONGRATULATIONS

  4. Almost Iowa Says:

    A well deserved recognition!

  5. So wonderful! Congratulations, Audrey!! 🙂 ❤

  6. Bernadette Thomasy Says:

    Congratulations, Audrey. What an interesting poetry challenge; your work excels and honors the river.

  7. JanBeek Says:

    Congratulations for having your poem selected to be on display. It is certainly worthy – and enhances the beauty of the river and the walk. ❤ Thanks for sharing it with us, Audrey.

  8. Norma Says:

    What a great honor for you Audrey. Congratulations !!

  9. Congratulations again for another amazing way to share your gift with the world.

  10. Missy’s Håndarbeid (Missy’s Crafty Mess) Says:

    That’s a great way to display a poem! It’s sure to catch someone’s attention that way.

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