Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Celebrating an evening of poetry & art in small town Minnesota May 11, 2014

Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota.

Guests arrive at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota on Saturday evening.

POETS AND ARTISTS, family and friends arrived from nearby Rochester, as far away as Fargo, and from within a few blocks of Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota Saturday evening.

The published collection of poems and art with cover art, "Li Bai at the South Fork," a pastel by Mike Schad, created for last year's collab. Also featured is a line from the poem (with the same name) by Justin Watkins.

The published collection of poems and art with cover art, “Li Bai at the South Fork,” a pastel by Mike Schad, created for last year’s collab. Also featured is a line from the poem (with the same name) by Justin Watkins.

They came to celebrate the pairing of art and poetry in the Poet-Artist Collaboration XIII.

My poem, "Lilacs," which was selected as a "Work of Merit" at the 2013 Northwoods Art and Book Festival in Hackensack.

My poem, “Lilacs,” which was selected as a “Work of Merit” at the 2013 Northwoods Art and Book Festival in Hackensack, and now displayed at Crossings at Carnegie as part of the Poet-Artist Collaboration XIII.

Jeanne Licari's absolutely stunning interpretation of my poem. Her "Lilacs on the Table" is oil on mounted linen.

Jeanne Licari’s absolutely stunning interpretation of my poem. Her “Lilacs on the Table” is oil on mounted linen.

Me on the left with "my" artist, Jeanne Licari.

Me on the left with “my” artist, Jeanne Licari.

I was there to read “Lilacs,” and to meet my artist, Jeanne Licari of Rochester, who created “Lilacs on the Table,” a still life oil on linen inspired by my poetry.

It was shoulder to shoulder people at the poet and artist reception.

It was shoulder to shoulder people at the poet and artist reception. Poems and paired art are featured in the alcoves along the wall. Twenty-six poems and paired art are included in the exhibit.

What a delightful evening, mingling in this privately-owned small town arts center crammed with art and art appreciators.

Inside the historic State Theatre, artists and poet presented to a nearly full house.

Inside the historic State Theatre, artists and poets presented to a sizable crowd.

After we’d wined and nibbled, chatted and admired, we gathered in the next door historic State Theatre for 90 minutes of poetry readings and artist and poet talk.

From an abstract oil and acrylic on canvas to a watercolor of a Honeysuckle, to pastels, mixed media and even an oil on canvas of a 57 Chevy framed by barbed wire and fence posts, a plethora of art flashed onto the big screen in the darkened theatre.

As I listened to my fellow poets and these artists, I sensed, more than anything, a deep passion among all of us for the art of creating. That passion flowed in carefully crafted poems—lines of words that spoke of love and of memories, of cranes and of spiders, of storms and more. That passion flowed, too, in paint stroked upon canvas, in stitching and ink and the softness of watercolors.

To be a part of this event, in the company of such talent, truly inspires.

Leaving Crossings at Carnegie, I snapped this image of the former Carnegie library.

Leaving Crossings at Carnegie, I snapped this image of the former Carnegie library.

FYI: The Poet-Artist Collaboration XIII exhibit continues through this Thursday, May 15, at Crossings at Carnegie, 320 East Avenue, Zumbrota. The artwork is available for purchase.

Click here to read how my poem inspired artist Jeanne Licari.

And click here to read how my poem, “Her Treasure,” inspired artist Connie Ludwig of Goodhue in the Poet-Artist Collaboration XI.

Check back for a follow-up post on another reason Saturday evening’s celebration was a memorable one for me.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Establishing my voice: Writing rooted in rural Minnesota May 7, 2014

I ARRIVED HOME on a recent Saturday afternoon to the answering machine blinking.

When I reached Sharon Harris of the northern Minnesota based Jackpine Writers’ Bloc a few moments later, I was pleased to hear her news. I’d placed second, she said, in the poetry division of The Talking Stick 23 competition with my poem, “Sunday Afternoon at the Auction Barn.”

Such news could not have come at a better time. Just the day prior, my mother had entered a nursing home. I needed to hear something positive.

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

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

Getting work accepted into this well-respected literary journal is always an honor. This marks my fifth year in the book in six years of submitting. Twice I’ve earned honorable mentions, for my poem “Hit-and-Run” and for my short story, “The Final Chapter.”

And now this year, I bumped up a spot to get that second place award. Another poem, “The Promised Land,” and a short story, “Eggs and Bread,” will also publish in volume 23.

The Talking Stick editorial team read and considered more than 300 submissions (of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction) before forwarding their top picks in each of the three divisions to selected “celebrity” judges. Poet Margaret Hasse judged this year’s poetry.

Finishing second, I not only receive a $100 cash prize, but also Hasse’s comments on “Sunday Afternoon at the Auction Barn.” She writes:

I loved how you turned a humdrum occasion of bidding on antiques in an old barn into a closely observed and luminous occasion. The writer John Ciiardi once wrote that close and careful observation can “leak a ghost.” The surprise of your poem was the elevation of a commercial or material enterprise into a spiritual gathering—with a fellowship, liturgy, reverent respect, and people who commune. The ending—visual and concrete—was just right. The poet Franklin Brainerd wrote a poem something to the effect, “in a world of crystal goblets, I come with my paper cup.” There’s something both unpretentious and appealing about “sipping steaming black coffee from Styrofoam cups.”

Hasse gets it. She totally understands my poem, how each well-crafted line defines, as she says, a “spiritual gathering” in a small town auction barn.

If I could share my auction poem with you today, I would. But I’ve signed a contract not to do so for a year.

Suffice to say, this poem, like nearly every other poem I’ve written and/or had published, is rooted in my rural memories, my connection to the land and/or my appreciation for rural Minnesota.

Turek's Auction Service, 303 Montgomery Ave. S.E. (Highway 21), Montgomery, has been "serving Minnesota since 1958." Daniel Turek, Sr., started the third-generation family business now operated by Dan, Jr. and Travis Turek. They sell everything from antique vases to real estate.

Turek’s Auction Service, 303 Montgomery Ave. S.E. (Highway 21), Montgomery, has been “serving Minnesota since 1958.” Daniel Turek, Sr., started the third-generation family business now operated by Dan, Jr. and Travis Turek. They sell everything from antique vases to real estate.

Specifically, a photograph I took this past winter of a Montgomery, Minnesota, auction barn prompted the idea for this winning poem. I also drew on my experiences attending auctions, albeit not in recent years, to pen the 12 lines of verse.

Likewise, “Lilacs,” a poem I will read this coming Saturday evening, May 10, during the Poet-Artist Collaboration XIII reception at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota, was inspired by my rural rooted memories. (Click here to learn more about that poet-artist collab.)

When I consider my poetry, I clearly hear the rural voice in my words. There’s nothing pretentious about me. I remain, as I always have been, rooted to the land in my writing.

FYI: The Talking Stick 23 publishes late this summer with a book release party set for Saturday, September 13, in the Park Rapids area. To purchase past volumes of the anthology, click here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How my poetry inspired a still life painting of lilacs April 10, 2014

POETRY INSPIRING ART. It’s a fabulous concept and even better when you are part of such a pairing.

A poem I penned has inspired art for Poet-Artist Collaboration XIII, which opened March 31 and runs through May 15 at Crossings at Carnegie, 320 East Avenue, Zumbrota.

"Lilacs on the Table" by Jeanne Licari

“Lilacs on the Table” by Jeanne Licari. Photo courtesy of Crossings at Carnegie.

I recently connected with “my” artist, Jeanne Licari, to learn how my poem, “Lilacs,” inspired her to paint “Lilacs on the Table,” an 11 x 14-inch still life oil on linen.

Twenty-six poems were chosen from nearly 210 submissions with 26 artists then selected via a juried process. This is Jeanne’s ninth time participating in the collaboration and my second.

Artist Jeanne Licari

Artist Jeanne Licari in her studio. Photo courtesy of Jeanne Licari.

A mostly self-taught artist who drew and painted as a child, this Rochester resident also furthered her talent through painting classes and workshops. She terms herself a representational oil painter who prefers to paint from life, whether a landscape or a still life.

Jeanne is both plein air—painting outdoors on location—and studio painter.

“My art reflects the beauty I see in mankind and nature,” she says. “My paintings are a direct response to what I see.”

Or, in the case of “Lilacs,” to what she read.

Lilacs

Breathing in the heady scent of lilacs each May,
I remember my bachelor uncle and the gnarled bushes,
heavy with purple blooms, that embraced his front porch
and held the promises of sweet love never experienced.

He invited his sister-in-law, my mother, to clip lilacs,
to enfold great sweeps of flowers into her arms,
to set a still life painting upon the Formica kitchen table,
romance perfuming our cow-scented farmhouse.

Such memories linger as my own love, decades later,
pulls a jackknife from the pocket of his stained jeans,
balances on the tips of his soiled Red Wing work shoes,
clips and gathers great sweeps of lilacs into his arms.

Plenty of lilacs to gather in the spring.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of lilacs.

Jeanne explains how she created “Lilacs on the Table”:

“…I wanted to tell the viewer how I felt about lilacs. The poem triggered memories of many bouquets of lilacs in my lifetime. I love the dense bouquet of purple flowers, the beauty of the different pinks and purples against the green leaves, and the abundant fragrance of lilacs. Since there were no lilacs blooming in March, I painted them using memories of lilacs and how they grew, an oil study of lilacs painted from life, and photos.

I painted the lilacs on a table in response to the line, ‘to set a still life painting upon the Formica kitchen table.’ That line, plus the words about farming, made me remember many bouquets of lilacs on our Formica table in my childhood home on the farm.”

How fabulous to know that Jeanne comes, like me, from a rural background. Her words and oil painting show me that she understands and connects to my words in a deeply personal way.

And that is my hope as a poet—that those who read my poetry will connect to it.

A promotional for the collaboration features "Li Bai at the South Fork," art by Mike Schad inspired by a poem of the same name written by Justin Watkins for the 2013 Poet-Artist XII collaboration.

A promotional for the collaboration features “Li Bai at the South Fork,” art by Mike Schad inspired by a poem of the same name written by Justin Watkins for the 2013 Poet-Artist Collaboration XII.

FYI: A reception, poetry reading and slide show honoring the featured poets and artists is set for Saturday, May 10. Mingle and meet for an hour beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Crossings gallery. Then, at 7:30 p.m., move next door to the historic State Theatre where poets will read their works and artists will also briefly discuss their art, shown on a screen.

Another poet from my community of Faribault, Larry Gavin, who has published several poetry collections and teaches English at Faribault High School, will read two of his selected poems, “Ashes” and “Two Cranes.”

Collaboration participants come from Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

The featured artwork is available for sale, including “Lilacs on the Table,” priced at $395. Jeanne Licari’s art is also sold at the SEMVA (South Eastern Minnesota Visual Arts) Gallery in downtown Rochester.

Crossings at Carnegie, housed in a former Carnegie library, is a privately-owned cultural visual and performing arts center in Zumbrota. I love the rural atmosphere with the hardware story and grain elevator just down the street.

Crossings at Carnegie, housed in a former Carnegie library, is a privately-owned cultural visual and performing arts center in Zumbrota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

If you can’t attend the May 10 reception, you can view the exhibit during gallery hours from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Thursday; or from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday.

Click here for more details about Poet-Artist Collaboration XIII.

Click here to see how my poem, “Her Treasure,” inspired Connie Ludwig to paint “Pantry Jewels” for the Poet-Artist Collaboration XI in 2012.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Connecting art & poetry at Crossings & I’m in February 7, 2014

CONNECTING ART AND POETRY enhances both.

Crossings at Carnegie, housed in a former Carnegie library, is a privately-owned cultural visual and performing arts center in Zumbrota. I love the rural atmosphere with the hardware story and grain elevator just down the street.

Crossings at Carnegie, housed in a former Carnegie library, is a privately-owned cultural, visual and performing arts center in Zumbrota. I love the rural atmosphere with the hardware story and grain elevator just down the street. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

And I am pleased, for the second time, to have my poetry selected for inclusion in an annual poet-artist collaboration at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota.

Lilacs, up close. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Lilacs, up close. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

A juried artist will create a work of art based on my poem, “Lilacs,” one of 26 poems chosen from among more than 200 submissions for inclusion in Poet Artist Collaboration XIII.

Lucky thirteen. I’ve written poetry long enough, though, to understand that winning has nothing to do with luck, but rather with skill. Writing poetry is hard work. But when you nail a poem, like I did with “Lilacs,” it’s worth every minute anguishing over a word or a line.

“It was exciting to receive the outpouring of exceptional work from so many talented poets for this collaboration,” writes Marie Garvin of Crossings in an email. “Jurists told us they (the poems) were a pleasure to read, and selecting those to be included was a difficult task.”

The poems paired with art will go on display in April, National Poetry Month, at the Zumbrota gallery and gift shop. Poets will read their poems and artists will briefly discuss their artwork during a reception set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 10.

Connie, right, and I posed for a photo after a 90-minute presentation in which poets read their poems and artists talked about how their art was inspired by the poem. Note Connie's "Pantry Jewels" painting just above my head to the left. If I could buy this $490 watercolor on aqua board, I would in a snap.

Connie Ludwig, right, and I pose for a photo after a 90-minute presentation in which poets read their poems and artists talked about how their art was inspired by the poem. Note Connie’s “Pantry Jewels” painting just above my head to the left. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

Two years ago, my poem was selected for Poet Artist Collaboration XI. Goodhue artist Connie Ludwig created a watercolor, “Pantry Jewels,” inspired by my poem, “Her Treasure.” (You can read about that by clicking here.)

That earlier poem and “Lilacs” draw on childhood memories from my native southwestern Minnesota, a major influence in my writing.

Plenty of lilacs to gather in the spring.

Plenty of lilacs to gather in the spring. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

This marks the second time “Lilacs” has been recognized. This past summer, judges chose “Lilacs” as a Work of Merit in the 2013 Northwoods Art & Book Festival in Hackensack. Says Northwoods Arts Council Poetry Event Chair, poet and blogger Sue Ready “…we all see your work as creative and poetic that engages the reader.”

Sue is right. I always attempt to connect to the reader, whether through imagery, sensory words, emotions and more. Poetry should be an experience.

You can read “Lilacs” by clicking here.

I am grateful for this latest opportunity to share my poetry. And to have an artist find inspiration in my words and create a work of art pleases me even more.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling