Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Celebrating poetry: Reflections from a Minnesota poet April 4, 2022

Roses from my husband, Randy. (Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012)

Roses are red,

violets are blue.

Sugar is sweet

and so are you.

RAISE YOUR HAND if that’s the first poem you ever read or heard. My right hand is wildly waving. See it, right there next to a mass of many many hands?

Me, next to my posted poem, “River Stories,” selected for the 2019 Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride. (Minnesota Prairie Roots November 2019 file photo by Randy Helbling)

Today, April 4, marks day four of National Poetry Month, which celebrates the importance of poetry in our culture and lives. Whether you like or dislike poetry, it holds value as a form of artistic expression, communication, storytelling, endearment…

Many of my poems (plus short stories and creative nonfiction) have been selected for publication in The Talking Stick, an annual anthology published by the Jackpine Writers’ Bloc. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

I am proud to call myself a poet. A published poet. How did I get there? I’ve always loved words, the song of language. Poetry is, I think, a lot like music. It carries a rhythm. A beat. A cadence. That comparison comes from a poet who can’t carry a tune, can’t read a musical note, can’t play an instrument.

A Chamber Choir performs artsongs written from poems, directed by David Kassler. (Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo April 2017)

But in 2017, a chamber choir performed my poem, “The Farmer’s Song,” at two concerts in Rochester. David Kassler composed the music for my poem and six others as part of an artsong project. To sit in that audience and hear those vocalists sing my poem was overwhelmingly humbling. And validating.

I took poetic license and photoshopped this image of the button I wore identifying me as a poet at a Poetry Bash. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

I am a poet.

The last of four billboards featuring my Roadside Poetry spring poem. (Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011)

My poetry has been published in newspapers, magazines, literary journals, anthologies… And in unexpected places. In 2011, my spring-themed poem bannered four billboards in Fergus Falls as part of the Roadside Poetry Project. Other poems have been posted on signs along trails as part of the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride. “Ode to My Farm Wife Mother” is currently showcased in an exhibit at the Lyon County Historical Society Museum in Marshall, Minnesota, in my hometown area.

Jeanne Licari’s absolutely stunning interpretation of my “Lilacs” poem. Her “Lilacs on the Table” is oil on mounted linen. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo May 2014)

Some of my poems have inspired art in Poet-Artist Collaborations, been aired on the radio and read by me at poetry readings.

I read poetry at this event at my local arts center in March 2019. I was honored to read with other talented area poets. (Promo courtesy of the Paradise Center for the Arts)

Even I’m surprising myself at the volume of poetry I’ve crafted through the decades. I never set out to be a poet. It simply happened as an extension of my love of words, of language. And that undeniable need to express myself creatively. Unlike that “Roses are red…” introductory poetry of old, my poems do not rhyme.

My poem, “Ode to My Farm Wife Mother,” with accompanying photos (center of this photo) in the Lyon County exhibit. (Photo courtesy of the LCHS)

My poetry is like me. Unpretentious. Down-to-earth understandable. Flannel shirt and blue jeans. Honest. Detail-oriented. Rooted in the land with a strong sense of place and a story to be told.

TELL ME: What’s your opinion of poetry? Do you read it, like it, write it? I’d like to hear.

Please click on links in this post to read some of the poems I’ve written.

FYI: Content Bookstore, 314 Division St. S., Northfield, is hosting two Poetry Nights, both beginning at 7 pm. On Thursday, April 7, Northfield poet Diane LeBlanc will read from her latest works. That includes her new poetry book, The Feast Delayed. Northfield Poet Laureate Rob Hardy and poet Greta Hardy-Mittell will read from their latest works also. Hardy’s newest poetry collection, Shelter in Place, just released.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


18 Responses to “Celebrating poetry: Reflections from a Minnesota poet”

  1. beth Says:

    you are indeed a poet in the truest sense of the word. this is amazing, how your poetry has flowed and connected to many other creative enterprises in the community and beyond. that is the power of poetry. i have also always been enthralled with language, words, even alphabets and enjoy using a more poetic style (over prose) when telling a story, something about the placement of the words in new places, sometimes unexpected and often in an order that says something in a much clearer way than originally intended.

  2. Valerie Says:

    You’ve done really well Audrey. I like your poems, and all your writing! Keep it up!

  3. How wonderful that so many people have been inspired to do other artistically connected versions of your poems. How wonderful that you have that ability. 😊🌷

  4. Bernadette Arlene Thomasy Says:

    The older I get, the more I appreciate poetry. I studied the classic poets in college. but I didn’t have the life experience to understand most of what they were saying. Now contemporary poetry really resonates with me, the unrhymed and freer structure and down-to-earth subjects. I enjoy reading a poem a day, via Garrison Keilor’s Writers Almanac online and often think, wow I’ve felt that very thing. Thanks to you I’ve been encouraged to try writing poetry. It is a fun and creative challenge.

  5. You are a true creative and wordsmith 🙂 I love that you love to share that love and passion and creativity with others. It is relatable to a good majority of us too. I love poetry that I can read, speak and visualize i.e., roses are red. Some poetry leaves you wondering if you got the meaning of it at all or pondering if it was open for interpretation. I remember learning about Haikus in High School and that challenged me on multiple levels. I think I would rather play a game of Scrabble. You are an INSPIRATION as well as an INFLUENCER and again love that you share that EVERY DAY with others. Happy Creating – Happy Wordsmithing – Happy Day Indeed – Enjoy!

  6. Frank Hudson Says:

    So gratified to see ways that you have helped connect poetry with your community.

    In terms of poetry and music, my six-year project has been to experiment with various ways poetry and music can combine. Speaking, chanting, singing a poets work connects your breath with a poet’s heart.

  7. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    You are so gifted in so many ways, the way you put “words” together is just one of your gifts. I always love reading your poems and cherish the book of poems you gave me… “The Talking Stick Vol. 26”, It sits on my coffee table at the cabin, I often pick it up to read the poems while I sip my coffee in the morning. I’ve also enjoyed being present in the audience to hear you read your poems. You are amazing!!!

  8. Poetry is music of the soul. You have found your gift and used it so well to bring your words to life in so many ways. While I am not a poet I am a lover of words to be sure and while I don’t often seek poetry to read I do appreciate the craft. Thank you for sharing all of your accomplishments —they are many and varied and so special.

  9. I love the way you describe your poetry as being like you, unpretentious and down-to-earth, flannel and all. Poetry is indeed an art that unfolds as we unfold ourselves throughout our lives – it shifts and grows with us, its richness and depth increasing as our experience does the same. Poetry is a spiritual practice as far as I’m concerned – it trickles out from our souls at exactly the right time. We just have to pay attention and let it find its own form.

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