Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Bringing poetry to the people in Mankato & I’m in January 19, 2018

 

NEARLY SIX MONTHS have passed since I stopped at Spring Lake Park in North Mankato to view my poem posted there as part of the Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride.

 

The post just to the front left of the car holds a sign with my poem printed thereon.

 

 

Looking back across the lake toward the willows and my nearby poetry sign.

 

Located at the edge of a parking lot next to a trail and within a stone’s throw of drooping weeping willows, my award-winning poem about detasseling corn contrasts with the tranquil setting of lake and lawn separated by bullrushes flagged by cattails.

 

The Sibley Farm playground inside Sibley Park features these cornstalk climbing apparatus. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

The poem may have been more appropriately placed next to cornstalk climbing apparatus at the Sibley Farm playground in Mankato’s Sibley Park.

 

A beautiful setting for poetry.

 

 

 

Still, I am grateful for this opportunity to get my poetry out there in a public place. This placement of selected poems along recreational trails and in parks in Mankato and North Mankato brings poetry to people in an approachable and everyday way. That is the beauty of this project—the accessibility, the exposure in outdoor spaces, the flawless weaving of words into the landscape.

 

Inside a southern Minnesota cornfield. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

My poem, as with much of my writing, reflects a strong sense of place. In Cornfield Memories, I take the reader into a southwestern Minnesota cornfield to experience detasseling corn, a job I worked several summers as a teenager. It’s hard work yanking tassels from corn stalks in the dew of the morning and then in the scorching sun of a July afternoon. All for $1.25/ hour back in the day.

 

My poem, Bandwagon, previously posted at Lion’s Park in Mankato as part of a previous Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.

 

My poem shares rural history, a story, an experience. Just as my past poems—The Thrill of Vertical, Off to Mankato to “get an education” and Bandwagon—selected as part of previous Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride contests did.

 

 

I value public art projects like the Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride. Not only as a poet, but as an appreciator of the literary arts. Poetry doesn’t need to be stuffy and mysterious. And this project proves that.

I’D LIKE TO HEAR your thoughts on bringing poetry to the public in creative ways like this. Have you seen a similar project? Would you stop to read poems posted in public spots?

NOTE: All photos were taken in early September, within weeks of the 2017 Poetry Walk & Ride poems being posted.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Advertisements
 

Poetry in Minnesota beyond the classroom, beyond anthologies March 21, 2017

I EXPECT MANY OF YOU dislike poetry. You sat in a high school English class bored to death by the required reading of poems you didn’t understand. Or worse, you had to pen a haiku or a rhyming poem or free verse. And then you had to take a test. You couldn’t wait until the poetry unit was done.

You struggled. You didn’t care. I get it. I felt that way about math. But poetry I’ve always embraced. I am grateful for the educators who taught, and continue to teach, poetry to resistant students.

 

Sidewalk poetry in downtown Northfield. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

If you’re one of those non-poetry people, I hope you’ll give this literary art a second chance. Poetry is certainly less rigid and stuffy than years ago. It’s also much more accessible beyond a collection published in a book. Now you’ll find poetry creatively presented in videos such as Minneapolis-based Motionpoems; online in Gyroscope Review, co-founded and co-edited by a Minnesotan; imprinted in sidewalks in cities like Northfield and St. Paul and Mankato; and more.

 

A graphic I created for Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Cardboard walls that once held poetry inside an intellectual box have collapsed and been recycled. The result is poetry that maybe, just maybe, you will find approachable, understandable and enjoyable.

 

My poem, “Bandwagon,” posted in 2014 in Lion’s Park in Mankato as part of the Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride. The poems are changed annually. Each poem must be 18 lines or less with no more than 40 characters per line. They must also be themed to the area. “Bandwagon” was inspired by a Mankato TV show by that name. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Take the 2017 Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride. I’ll join other poets at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 23, at the Emy Frentz Arts Guild Gallery in Mankato for a poetry reading and awards reception. I’ll read my poem, “Cornfield Memories,” which won honorable mention. While that’s an honor, the truly exciting aspect of this project is the public accessibility and visibility of poetry.

Michael Torres, a CantoMundo fellow, creative writing teacher and co-host of art workshops for homeless and at-risk youth in the Mankato area, selected 29 poems from about 70 submissions for inclusion in the Poetry Walk & Ride. The poems will be posted on signs along recreational trails in Mankato and North Mankato. This endeavor brings poetry to people in parks, playgrounds and other outdoor spaces in an unassuming way. What a great idea. Poems cover a broad range of topics from experiencing the outdoors to Minnesota to water, says Erin Dorney, writer and project organizer.

 

My poem initially printed in In Retrospect, The Talking Stick, Volume 22, an anthology published by The Jackpine Writers’ Bloc based in northern Minnesota, has been crafted into a song by Rochester, Minnesota composer David Kassler. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

The next day, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 24, poetry will also be showcased publicly, this time at a concert. My poem, “The Farmer’s Song,” is among seven being sung by a chamber choir at the Hill Theater at Rochester Community and Technical College. Admission is $7.50. The same concert will be presented for a free-will offering at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 26, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rochester. I’ll attend that Sunday concert and read my poem. A reception follows the Sunday concert.

I appreciate that Rochester composer David Kassler invested considerable time in creating choral settings for selected poems. It’s just one more way to bring poetry to the people of Minnesota in an inviting public way. Please join me and other Minnesotans in celebrating poetry at either or both events.

TELL ME: What’s your attitude toward poetry?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Valentine’s Day love in a poem February 14, 2015

WHEN IS THE LAST TIME you received a handcrafted valentine?

Mine arrived this week via 13-year-old Hannah’s dad handing her homemade valentine to my husband at a church meeting. Randy in turn delivered a yellow construction paper envelope to me.

What a sweet surprise to receive a valentine greeting from this creative teen.

See, I really was busy taking photos, here of Hannah. She's quite the artist who not only paints, but also sews. Plus, she writes poetry.

A photo I snapped of Hannah several years ago as she painted a block on a basement wall. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Hannah, the daughter of dear friends, and I share a special connection. We are creative types. Specifically, we write poetry, the reason Hannah addressed the envelope to “My Poet Pal.” Ah. Melted my heart right then and there.

Hannah's poem, "Snow."

Hannah’s poem, “Snow,” posted in Sibley Park in Mankato.

Several years ago I began mentoring Hannah in poetry. She loves words and rhythm as much as I do. And, like me, she had a poem selected last spring for inclusion in the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride. You can read all about that by clicking here.

When I lifted the flap on the yellow envelope where Hannah had glittered my name in silver, I was not surprised to find she had penned a valentine poem:

Hannah's poem is especially fitting since I donated blood recently via the American Red Cross. Hannah had no way of knowing this.

Hannah’s poem is especially fitting since I donated blood recently via the American Red Cross. Hannah had no way of knowing this.

Ah…

But wait, there’s more. My valentine is green, not red. Hannah knows that green is my favorite color.

Ah…

If you’ve ever mentored a young person, you know that this nurturing and encouraging and caring blesses you as much as the recipient. To connect, to share a passion—whether in poetry, gardening, crafting, photography—is a gift. A gift.

The valentine Hannah created just for me.

The valentine Hannah created just for me.

This Valentine’s Day, I received more than a handcrafted valentine from Hannah. I received a heart full of love.

IF YOU’VE MENTORED a young person, I’d like to hear about it. Or if you’ve received a handcrafted valentine, I’d like to hear about that, too.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends!

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Poem is copyrighted by Hannah.

 

Getting published, in a Mankato park August 11, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

HOW, EXACTLY, WERE WE going to locate a poetry sign in sprawling Sibley Park?

A sign explains the history of Sibley Park.

A sign explains the history of Sibley Park.

Upon entering this Mankato city park on a recent Saturday morning, I considered that my husband and I would be searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. We had no idea the park was so large. And we were supposed to, somehow, find 12-year-old Hannah Leraas’ Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride sign board here.

Absolutely stunning gardens.

Absolutely stunning gardens.

Yeah, right, I thought as we parked near a stunning flower garden to begin our search because it seemed as good a place as any to start looking.

The garden includes a fountain tucked among the flowers.

The garden includes water features tucked among the flowers.

But I quickly deduced if we were to find the poem, we best ask someone familiar with the park. That was not the young woman on a skateboard. A wedding photographer on his way to a shoot proved more helpful, directing us toward a particular street we had yet to locate in the twisting maze of park roads that are not particularly well-marked.

There's Hannah's poem, up the hill from the Ott cabin, to the right in the background.

There’s Hannah’s poem, up the hill from the Ott cabin, to the right in the background.

Hannah Leraas with her winning poem, "Snow."

Hannah Leraas with her winning poem, “Snow.” Photo courtesy of Leraas family.

With his directions and after touring the gardens, we climbed back in the van and moments later spotted Hannah’s poem, “Snow,” just up the hill from the 1857 Ott log cabin along a recreational trail and near CHS Pergola Way.

Hannah's poem, "Snow."

Hannah’s poem, “Snow.”

While my husband dialed (507) 403-4038 on his cell phone and punched in 407 to hear Hannah read her poem, I snapped photos of this young Faribault writer’s poetry sign board. I’ve mentored Hannah and am beyond thrilled that “Snow” was selected from among submissions in the fourth – seventh grade division of the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride competition. (Click here to read a story I posted earlier about her poetry.)

My poem, “Bandwagon,” was also chosen and is posted in Lions Park. (Click here to read about that.)

Sibley Park rests at the confluence of the Blue Earth and Minnesota Rivers.

Sibley Park rests at the confluence of the Blue Earth and Minnesota Rivers. The park has many features, including softball fields, a sliding hill, picnic shelters, a zoo (which we did not have time to visit) and more.

For any writer, no matter your age or experience, there’s a certain satisfaction in winning a contest and getting your work published. I am grateful for the opportunity I’ve had the past two years to be part of the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride. This year 35 poems by 22 writers are posted in parks and along recreational trails in Mankato and North Mankato. Additionally, poems by three notable area poets are featured.

This sign near the CHS Pergola and atop the park's hill, encourages physical activity.

This sign near the CHS Pergola and atop the park’s hill, encourages physical activity.

I hope you’ll take the time, if you’re in southern Minnesota, to check out the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride. Just allow plenty of time for exploring, like we did in Sibley Park, once we found Hannah’s poem.

My husband and I noticed lots of oak leaves fallen from trees and oaks that appeared diseased.

My husband and I noticed lots of oak leaves fallen from trees and oaks that appeared diseased.

FYI: For more info about the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride, a project of the Southern Minnesota Poets Society, click here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Mankato: Bringing poetry to the public in parks & along trails August 1, 2014

WHEN WE FINALLY DETOURED our way around all the road construction to Lions Park in Mankato, we wondered how we would find my poem selected for the 2014 Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride.

“It’s probably right there, by the garbage,” my husband suggested when I noted a sign post nearby.

There's my poetry sign, by the garbage can.

There’s my poetry sign, by the garbage can.

And he was right. “Bandwagon,” my 14 line poem based on the long-running, locally-produced television show by the same name, is posted next to a paved trail, by a garbage can, at the park’s north entry in a quiet residential neighborhood not all that far from Minnesota State University Mankato.

My poem, "Bandwagon."

My poem, “Bandwagon.”

On this Saturday morning, not a soul stirred as my husband punched (507) 403-4038 into his cell phone and then, when prompted, 428, to listen to me read my poem as part of the “Mankato on the Move” audio tour.

A recreational trail winds past my poetry sign in Lions Park North.

A recreational trail winds past my poetry sign in Lions Park.

This marks the second time my writing has been selected for the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride, a second year project of the Southern Minnesota Poets Society designed to bring poetry to the public via signs placed in parks and along recreational trails.

I love the concept, the unassuming way in which these poems have been integrated into the community. This exposes poetry in a creative setting—outside the walls of a library, bookstore, educational institution or coffee shop. And for those of us who write poetry, it’s just one more opportunity to showcase our writing and appreciate the creative talents of other poets.

Me by my poetry sign.

Me by my poetry sign.

When I penned “Bandwagon,” I tapped into my memories of watching Bandwagon, a show which debuted in November 1960 on Mankato television station KEYC-TV. The program featured, and still features, audience members dancing to the music of old-time bands. It is one of the longest running, locally-produced entertainment programs in Minnesota television. The show is taped at 6:30 p.m. on the first Monday of the month at the Kato Entertainment Center and then aired the following four weekends.

I haven’t seen Bandwagon in four decades, not since I left the farm where my father drove his John Deere to the hay bunk and my mom may, or may not, have swayed her hips to “Cherry Pickers Polka.” All poets are allowed some poetic license.

John Deere tractors galore lined up at the 2009 Rice County Steam & Gas Engine Show. Santa will likely arrived on a newer model John Deere at this week's SEMA Equipment holiday open houses.

John Deere, an original sponsor of Bandwagon. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Back in the day, I knew the show as The John Deere Bandwagon, given its sponsorship by the farm implement company.

The Ray Sands Band played at the 2011 Germanfest.

The Ray Sands Band plays at a church celebration. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo used for illustration purposes only.

I can still hear MC Chuck Pasek introducing the bands and musical selections. And I can still see those couples twirling across the dance floor…

FYI: For more information about the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride, including locations of the 2014 poetry boards, click here.

Please check back for another post featuring the writing of 12-year-old Hannah Leraas whose poem was selected in a youth division and is posted in Mankato’s Sibley Park. I’ve mentored Hannah.

The Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride is sponsored by Mayo Clinic Health System, Creative Ad Solutions Inc., Voyageur Web and the cities of Mankato and North Mankato.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if other communities, like my community of Faribault with an extensive park and trails system, would start a poetry walk and ride?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Novice & seasoned poets bring their poetry to Mankato trails & parks July 15, 2014

I DON’T KNOW if I was more thrilled with her win, or mine, in the 2014 Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride competition.

A graphic I created for Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride.

A graphic I created for Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride.

But when I saw 12-year-old Hannah Leraas’ name in the list of fourth through seventh grade division winners, I whooped out loud. Yes!

The young Faribault poet I’ve mentored had just published her first poem.

Hannah joins me and 20 other writers whose 35 winning poems will be posted soon on poetry sign boards in parks and along trails in Mankato and North Mankato. Additionally, poems by three selected notable area poets will also be published. Submitted poems were anonymously judged by noted League of Minnesota poets Bethany Barry, Charmaine Donovan and Peter Stein.

"Off to Mankato to 'get and education'", posted near Glenwood Gardens, in the background in this photo.

My poem, “Off to Mankato to ‘get an education'”, posted near Glenwood Gardens in 2013.

This marks the second year of this competition and I’m delighted to once again be part of an effort that brings poetry to the public in an unassuming way. Two of my poems were showcased last year.

Now my poem, “Bandwagon,” based on the John Deere Bandwagon television show originating in Mankato, will be displayed in Lions Park North. Hannah’s poem, “Snow,” will be located on signage in Sibley Park West.

My husband and I listen to one of my selected poems.

My husband and I listen to one of my selected poems in 2013.

Additionally, QR codes and phone numbers will be posted, allowing the public to hear poets read their works.

But for now, I want you to read, Hannah’s poem:

Snow

I woke up to see,
And it fills me with glee,
As I stepped out of bed
I suddenly said,
“I need to hurry!”
I dressed in a flurry,
Dashed down to the door.
My snow pants I wore.
Like an airplane in flight
I flew with pure delight…
SNOW!

The mentor in me is thrilled that Hannah chose some strong verbs like “stepped” and “dashed.” She could have written “got” or “ran,” verbs that are not nearly as powerful.

But my favorite part of this homeschooler’s poem is this: I dressed in a flurry.

The double meaning of that word, “flurry,” referencing both action and snow, truly impresses me. Hannah understands the power of language.

As soon as the snow began, my neighbor girl was outside building a snowman and a snow fort.

As soon as the snow began, my neighbor girl was outside building a snowman and a snow fort. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, February 2014.

And then there’s the imagery—can’t you just visualize Hannah flying out the door and into a snowy world?

She loves winter. I mean really loves winter. “I love snow and winter is my favorite season,” Hannah tells me.

And why? Snow, this thoughtful poet explains, is like a blank sheet of white paper upon which to draw pictures or write with a stick. There’s another poem in that response.

When’s the last time you thought about writing with a stick in the snow? Been awhile, hasn’t it?

Hannah is, not surprisingly, excited. Here’s her reaction to winning: “Like seriously, are dyslexics supposed to get published?”

Yes, this pre-teen struggles with letters and numbers and sentences. But that hasn’t stopped her from writing poetry, which she says helps with reading and writing and has improved her spelling. You have to admire her determination.

There were a few rules to follow in entering this contest which was open to writers living within a 50-mile radius of Mankato. Each poem could be no more than 18 lines with 40 characters or less per line. That’s a challenge, to write within such strict confines.

Hannah, who’s been penning mostly rhyming poems for about two years now, turns to her thesaurus—the one I gave her—to find the perfect descriptive words for her poems. I praised her for using that reference book, one I tap into often also.

She’s an enthusiastic poet who shares her favorite line from her favorite poem, one about Bob, a cuddly toy monkey she received one Christmas from her parents, Jesse and Tammy.

In writing that poem, she thought of the flying monkeys in the “Wizard of Oz” and then her beloved Bob:

…the big squishy guy,
the one who can’t fly…

FYI: For more information about the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride, click here. Once our poems are posted and Hannah and I get to Mankato, I’ll post photos of us with our poetry signs.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

One sweet antique shop in Mankato, on the way to Hiniker (not Golden) Pond January 16, 2014

Love these letters showcased at Pond Road Antiques.

Love these letters showcased at Pond Road Antiques.

I DON’T RECALL exactly when I began to appreciate antique stores. It certainly was not in my 20s or 30s, nor probably even in my early 40s.

But now, closer to age 60 than to 50, I’ve developed a fondness for these shops that hold memories of my past. Nostalgia sells.

Not all antiques shops are created equal, though. Too much old stuff stuffed inside a dark, cramped and musty building overwhelms me. Artfully arranged merchandise in sufficient light draws me for a closer look.

Inside Pond Road Antiques.

Inside Pond Road Antiques.

Pond Road Antiques, just off Highway 169 at 111 Butterworth Street in Mankato, ranks as one of the most visually appealing antique shops I’ve shopped. While the exterior, a fancied-up new pole shed style building, doesn’t fit the merchandise inside, don’t judge a book by its cover. Inside you will find 38 dealers showcasing their wares in a visually pleasing way. Think designer display.

Here are a few photos of the merchandise (I failed to photograph the exterior) shot this past summer after a stop at nearby Hiniker Pond Park, where my poem, “The Thrill of Vertical,” is currently posted as part of the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride. (Click here to learn about that poetry project.)

"The Thrill of Vertical," located next to Hiniker Pond.

My poem, “The Thrill of Vertical,” located next to Hiniker Pond.

I’d suggest a jaunt to Mankato to check out that poetry, scattered throughout Mankato and North Mankato, and to peruse the appropriately-named Pond Road Antiques.

My husband, Randy, and I were thrilled to find this vintage straw cowboy hate. We reminisced for awhile about watching Westerns on TV and getting new cowboy hats each summer.

My husband, Randy, and I were thrilled to find this vintage straw cowboy hat. We reminisced for awhile about watching Westerns on TV and getting new cowboy hats each summer while growing up.

With a soon-to-be son-in-law with the last name of Schmidt, I find myself drawn to Schmidt beer collectibles.

With my eldest now married to a Schmidt, I find myself drawn to Schmidt beer stuff.

I nearly flipped when I saw this toy accordion, just like one I had as a child. I loved my accordion and it is the only musical instrument I've ever played.

I nearly flipped when I saw this toy accordion, just like one I had as a child. I loved my accordion. It is the only musical instrument I ever had the opportunity to play. I should have bought this although, if I recall correctly, the price was higher than I wanted to pay. But how I would love that toy accordion…

Unusual for sure and, well, I've always thought grasshoppers were interesting insects to watch.

Unusual for sure and, well, I’ve always thought grasshoppers are interesting insects to watch. Grasshoppers were everywhere on my native prairie when I was growing up. I love how items like this are being repurposed as art.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE antique shop?

FYI: Pond Road Antiques is open from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Saturday and from noon – 5 p.m. Sundays.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling