When news of the death of Helen E. Rilling reached us in February 2011, we were saddened but happy such a bright spirit remained one of our active members of the Meeting the Muse Section of Amy Kitchener's Angels Without Wings Fdn. to the day she died in Auburn, Illinois at age 95.
In 2008, despite suffering a potentially debilitating fall, Helen continued studying poetry writing with Yvonne Nunn's class of Bardlets in the Cyber College of Online Poetry. She won 1st and Honorable Mention awards in Amy Kitchener's challenge to readers of The Diploemat newsletter to write Frieda Risvold's newly invented form, the Atom, using the style of haiku but featuring, instead of 5-7-5 syllables, three lines of 5-7-5 letters per single-syllable word. Helen won 1st Place with: winds/whistle/music.
Also in 2008, at age 94, Helen blasted off into cyberspace as a member of the crew that launched Project Aznatsyrots--which stands for Story Stanza spelled backwards--by helping introduce the new 100-word formula invented by Wanda Sue Parrott. Inspired by the Etheree format, Wanda devised a formula for writing flash fiction and/or 100-word scenes and poems that serves as a Shortcut to Success for writers desirous of winning contests or selling their work to publishers. Helen won with this short story:
When Jamie followed a pretty butterfly into the dark forest, he forgot his mother's warning:
She was an artist as well as prolific writer. Publicity about her last book of poetry, "Legacy of a Poet" (Bell's Letters, 2004) describes Helen as:
Helen E. Rilling is a nonagenarian whose poetry is beloved by fans who know her as "a farmer's daughter and a farmer's wife." A lifelong poet, who graduated from college at age 76, Helen was nominated for Poet Laureate of Illinois in 2003 and was Illinois Senior Poet Laureate in 2004. This 58-poem collection, Rilling's sixth chapbook, treats readers to such unforgettable lines as: Tears furrow my aging cheeks/like a plow breaking prairie soil. and I seek out a cathedral/in the forest; pray for words/dream the dreams of scribblers. Sentimental journeys back to childhood create an American journey through time which Rilling summarizes in prose as: Poetry is my legacy and memorializes poetically as ...Memories/wrap around my shoulders/like a cherished shawl. I smile.
Helen went on to win, for the second time, the Illinois Senior Poet Laureate Award in 2008 at age 94. We reproduce her page from Golden Words in her memory and also invite readers to share the poem by which Helen wished to be known during her lifetime and remembered afterward. (Click on Signature Poem)
Amy Kitchener's Angels Without Wings Foundation
CAMEO OF A LONG AGO SPRING DAY
Papa came up from the barn.
He carried two shiny buckets of milk;
foam ran over the sides and a
passel of cats and kittens followed.
"Morning everyone." He smiled. "Would
you all like to take a walk today?"
Squeals of delight answered his question.
Papa knew the name of every wild flower
and bird that flew overhead. We trudged
across the meadow, a sea of purple clover.
Yellow and black bumble bees did loop-de-loops
around our heads. A spring fed the creek
that gurgled as it flowed on through the
countryside down to the river. Papa knelt
and showed us a delicate lady's slipper
all pink and purple. We saw yellow buttercups,
white daisies, and golden dandelions everywhere.
Trees blossomed overhead, birds fluttered and
filled the air with sweet music. I looked up to the
tall tree tops and wondered if I'd be in heaven
if I was up there. Papa found a sunny spot and we
knelt around him and said our noon blessing. We
each had a sandwich in our pocket. Bright yellow
butter oozed from the thick slices of homemade
bread. Papa found wild onions and washed them in the
crystal creek. After lunch we walked over to the walnut
grove in a neighbor's timber. We'd gather nuts there
in the fall. We retraced our steps and found more wild-
flowers like may apples, violets, and wild roses. We
picked Mother a bouquet. We rolled in the tall grass and
mocked the black crows in the distance. Papa told of his
father coming in a covered wagon to settle here on the
prairie. We felt a kinship to the land and a great love
for each other on this perfect joyous spring day.
I close my eyes and see papa in his gallus
overalls and straw hat. I hear the voices of my
brother and sisters. I smell the shady timber and
hear water rushing over fallen logs in the creek.
I know God is near this day.