Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Faithful, by Janet Fox

Sixteen-year-old Maggie Bennet's life is in tatters. Her mother has disappeared and is presumed dead. Her father has forced her to leave the privilege and wealth of their elegant Newport, Rhode Island, home and travel with him to Yellowstone National Park. Torn from the only life she has ever known, Maggie is furious, but, as a woman in 1904, powerless -- even when she discovers that her father intends to marry her off to a creepy older man.

Without being completely didactic, and while telling an engaging story, Faithful shows young readers what life was like during the early 1900s. 

This week on The Write Question, Janet Fox talks about and reads from Faithful, the first in a series of three novels Penguin plans to publish. She also talks about the constraints women born into privileged society in the eastern U.S. had to live with in the early 20th century.

Tune in Thursday, December 30, at 6:30 ( or 7:30 ( to hear Janet Fox on The Write Question

Get more information about Janet Fox and listen to the program online.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday Poems: "My Heart Like an Upside-Down Flame" - Melissa Kwasny

(title from a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire)

One walks, or wants to walk, with the glow
cupped by two hands. As if light were water.

As if lemon verbena,
a blossom around the solid figure of the wick.

But look what can happen.
The heart has been looted of its small valuables:

music, of course, and the dancing couple
from childhood, secure in their velvet-lined box.

What is it that so captivates us in the old cliché?
I am thinking of the light cast from the pines

or the first green shoots of onion.
Bird in the palm if only we were patient enough.

We who lay the fragile thing beating in the yard,
then trust the stray cat won't find it.

Here is the pile of gray feathers and grit.
Who was it who told us courage was a virtue?

A candle burns at solstice on a simple yellow plate.
After work hours, after the bills are paid.

The safe heart then, burrowed into its winter cave?
Fish bones and behind them, swimming.

What is it I expect the heart to do?
Follow me? A handmaid, arranging the bouquets?

Or this tree, then that one, a row of grayer birch
as the flame steps out from the shadows of its house.

* * *

"My Heart Like an Upside-Down Flame" is one of the poems in Melissa Kwasny's latest collection: Reading Novalis in Montana. Kwasny is the author of two previous books of poetry, The archival Birds and Thistle, winner of the Idaho Prize. She is also the editor of Toward the Open Field: Poets on the Art of Poetry 1800 - 1950. She lives in western Montana.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pape’s Poetry Soothes the Soul

Greg Pape has published nine books of poetry and was Montana’s second Poet Laureate from 2007-2009. A true master of poetry, Pape implants a heavy dose of patience and keen awareness into all of his works. Whether he is eating a burger and fries in Miami, or tip-toeing down the Bitterroot Valley, Pape easily manages to throw the reader into his artful mind.

In his poem “First Hour,” Pape is a stealthy figure that isn’t just walking through the woods, but a figure that becomes the woods:

I walk so slowly even the coyote
trotting down through lodgepoles along the creek
doesn't see me until she is so close she hits
the wall of my scent, turns in a splash of snow
and doubles her pace back up the slope.

When Pape isn’t on land, his water poetry is just as soothing. When floating down one of his favorite rivers, Pape takes time to contemplate the origins of drowned cars along the streamside in his poem “Bitterroot Car-Body Riprap,” by asking:

Or was it the product
of a single vision, some warden who for years
stared at the wreck of a Studebaker
wedged between rocks, and forming a small eddy,
in the same spot it had come to rest
after the poor intoxicated driver had broken
through the guardrail and left the road for good?

In his ability of the imagination, Pape effortlessly captures lovely thought and plasters it down the paper, while also allowing the reader to follow and comprehend his narrative voice with ease.

I encourage you to keep your eyes peeled for readings presented by Pape, as he does a great job getting around to the public. And if you aren’t in the area, check out one of his nine publications so you can see for yourself how attractive Pape’s writing truly is.


At age 22, Ross Klein has just finished his last semester at The University of Montana, where he graduated with a degree in Recreation Resources Management. Although born and raised in Colorado, Ross now considers Montana to be his new home. He is an avid rock climber, fly fisherman, and hunter.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Poems: "A True War Story" - by Roger Dunsmore


My friend's uncle
was a Marine in Korea.
His squad came to a cluster of huts,
smoke drifting up from one.
The squad leader ordered him
to go into that hut,
to kill everyone inside.
He stepped cautiously through the door
and waited for his eyes to adjust.
In the dim light he saw a Korean grandmother,
terrified children huddled up against her.
He squeezed the trigger on his M1,
emptied it into the thatched roof,
and stepped back out
through that doorway.
No one spoke.

Back home,
when he told the old people
what he had done,
they gave him a new name:
and made him
The Giver of Names
for new-born children.

*     *     *

Roger Dunsmore has spent the last 45 years as a poet and university professor. During that time, he has published several collections of poetry and twice been short-listed to the governor for the position of Poet Laureate of Montana. "A True War Story" is included in Dunsmore's latest collection: You're Just Dirt.

Listen to Chérie Newman's conversation with Roger Dunsmore.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Upstream With Thomas McGuane

a reading response by Cavin  Losett

Upstream: Fly Fishing in the American West, is a collaboration between internationally acclaimed writer Thomas McGuane and photographer Charles Lindsay. It uses stunning imagery along with short stories to depict the grace and beauty of fly-fishing in the American West. McGuane’s artfully crafted stories brought me back to my childhood and the countless days spent with line and rod between my fingers, and the simple splendor felt in the presence of twisting brooks and wandering rivers.

The various stories by McGuane in Upstream provide different glimpses into the art of fly-fishing, whether it be a funny tale of angling on a small stream in southern Montana or the rhythmic meditation of casting a size-fifteen fly during a tranquil Indian summer day, he ventures into the very soul of man to explore his need to fish.

Whatever drives some people to hunt lies in a great skein of elements that are beyond selective human control and may include both compassion and war making. Fishing, of course, is a part of hunting and anyone who not picked up its instruments and gone forth to feel the transmutation of the country before them has experienced a profound omission. It is what Orwell called a hole in the light.

McGuane evokes the significance of fishing within this book. He allows for fishing to be a tool for a greater evaluation of nature and the deep-rooted nature of man to go forth and exist as one with a stream.

Fly-fishing is elevated to a new level of spirituality within McGuane’s stories, is shown to be not a spiritual bond of man and God, but rather a bond of man and rod with nature.

Upstream provides a quintessential view of fly-fishing within the American West. Whether it is an avid fly-fisherman or a mere dabbler in the art, I strongly suggest this book. McGuane’s deep insight into angling combined with Lindsay’s photography brings the true nature and magnificence of fly-fishing to surface of the pages.


Cavin Losett is currently a junior in the creative writing program at the University of Montana in Missoula. His interests include fishing, guitar, writing, traveling, and soccer. His favorite fishing spot is the upper Stillwater River where his family owns land. He also enjoys casting along the Yellowstone and Blackfoot rivers and Rock Creek.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Year-End Special with Barbara Theroux and Zed

The Write Question for December 16 is a discussion about a few of the wonderful books published by regional authors during 2010. This evening Barbara Theroux and Zed join TWQ producer Chérie Newman to talk about as many books as they can in 30 minutes.

Those selections, as well as other recommendations, are on the Montana Public Radio Web site:

In addition to book talk, you'll also hear music by Jimmy Durante, The Browns, and Elvis Costello during the program.

Tune in at 6:30 ( or 7:30 ( or listen online anytime.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Poems: "Cream" - by Robert Wrigley


It helped to be sixteen and bored a fourth day
deep in the woods, though I like to think it
not just a weariness with trout, mountains, or trees,

but a measure of genius that, having brought back
to his brother and me in camp
the mostly meat-free rib cage of an elk,

my youngest son had also learned that with a mallet of leg bone
he could play on it "Old MacDonald Had a Farm"
and the first five notes of "Sunshine of Your Love."

* * *

Robert Wrigley's poetry has won the Pushcart Prize six times. His previous books include Lives of the Animals, winner of the Poets' Price; Reign of Snakes, which won the Kingsley Tufts Award; and In the Bank of Beautiful Sins, which was awarded the San Francisco Poetry Center Book Award. "Cream" was published in his latest collection, Beautiful Country. Robert Wrigley lives with his wife, the writer Kim Barnes, in the woods near Moscow, Idaho.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Alyson Hagy, Ghosts of Wyoming

With the stories in her latest story collection, Ghosts of Wyoming, Alyson Hagy illuminates the complex issues of life in the West with characters so real they could live down the street.

William Kittredge calls Hagy a "first-rate storyteller" and had this to say about Ghosts of Wyoming: "Alyson Hagy knows our lingo, our lands and people, our heartbreaks and glories, and our tragedies and sustaining myths, and how each runs through the others. Read and enjoy. Hope for more."

During this week's program, Hagy reads passages from several of the stories in this collection and talks about how the harsh landscape of southwest Wyoming shapes its inhabitants and her writing. She also talks about her first impression of Wyoming and the state's escalating land-use conflict.

You can hear The Write Question Thursday evening at 6:30 (Yellowstone Public Radio) or at 7:30 (Montana Public Radio).

Or listen online.

Find out more about Alyson Hagy and her new book, Ghosts of Wyoming.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Poems: "Right" - by Richard Robbins


The other one has tried to reach it
across the ocean of the shoulder,
tried to stop it from hitting, from sending
a man to death with a scribbled word.

The body wishes it would listen
more to the body, refuse for once
this urge to travel an alley without
eye, tongue, or the two versatile feet.

The heart, tomorrow, will have her way
with it. Like the bones of the rib cage,
so birds of the air. The river will turn
in its path, the blue ground angle up,

every millionth part of God conspire
to bring the right to answer for itself,
for all the hands that closed or waved away
the weak untouchable things, come now

to throne, to town, his own driveway on
their knees to be healed.

*     *     * 

Richard Robbins grew up in Southern California and Montana. He studied with Richard Hugo and Madeline DeFrees at the University of Montana, where he earned his MFA in creative writing. Robbins has published four books of poems. "Right" is from his collection, Radioactive City, which won the 2009 Bellday Poetry Prize. Robbins directs the creative writing program and Good Thunder Reading Series at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hard Grass: Life on the Crazy Woman Bison Ranch, by Mary Zeiss Stange

Why would two out-of-state college professors decide to buy a ranch in southeastern Montana, way out in the middle of nowhere? Maybe because they had romantic notions about solitude and land. Maybe because they didn't know any better.

Near the small town of Ekalaka, is where Mary Zeiss Stange and her husband, Doug, own and run the Crazy Woman Bison Ranch. Hard Grass is an account of running that ranch and an exploration of the myths and realities of ranch life in modern America.

In addition to ranching, Stange is professor of women's studies and religion at Skidmore College in upstate New York where, for eight years, she served as director of the women's studies program. Stange has written numerous articles for major magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals, and four books of nonfiction. Hard Grass is her latest.

"Scholar, rancher, hunter, and feminist, Mary Zeiss Stange finally gives the fly-over country of the West what it's been lacking: a nuanced portrait of its people and animals from someone invested in the harsh and beautiful landscape."
-- Ted Kerasote, author of Bloodties: Nature, Culture, and the Hunt and
Out There: In the Wild in a Wired Age

This week during The Write Question, Mary Zeiss Stange talks about why she and Doug bought their land, how they have resolved western landowner issues, and why they chose to raise bison on their place, instead of cattle.

You can hear The Write Question Thursday evening at 6:30 (Yellowstone Public Radio) or at 7:30 (Montana Public Radio).

Or listen online.

Find out more about Mary Zeiss Stange and her new book, Hard Grass.