Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mary Clearman Blew's new memoir

Mary Clearman Blew’s education began at home, on a remote cattle ranch in Montana. She graduated to a one-room rural school, then escaped, via scholarship, to the University of Montana, where, still in her teens, she met and married her first husband. This Is Not the Ivy League is her account of what it was to be that girl, and then that woman—pressured by husband and parents to be the conventional wife of the 1950s, persisting in her pursuit of an education, trailed by a reluctant husband and small children through graduate school, and finally entering the job market with a PhD in English only to find a whole new set of pressures and prejudices.

This memoir is Blew’s behind-the-scenes account of pursuing a career at a time when a woman’s place in the world was supposed to have limits. It is a story of both the narrowing perspective of the social norm and the ever-expanding possibilities of a woman who refuses to be told what she can and cannot be.

Hear more, plus Blew reading two passages from the book, during The Write Question, Thursday, September 1, at 6:30 ( or 7:30 (MTPR,org).

Find out more about Mary Clearman Blew and listen online.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Poems: "Arlee (my hometown)" - by Jennifer Greene

The deadliest highway in Montana unzips itself through
the center of town. The fanciest building is the Post Office.
At night, kids ride bikes around empty gas pumps illuminated
under artificial lights.

A maze of dirt and gravel roads make a nest around the town.

In a house with the porch light turned off, a man falls in love
with a woman. His world, his children will grow roots and
sprout inside of her. Her hands will bathe the feet of his babies.

The Stockman's bar is filled with light from the inside out on
dark nights where reputations are broken like beer bottles. Many
people go to church on Sunday where they hold hands, put dollars
in a basket, and pray for sick people in each other's families.

During the 4th of July, powwow music dances its way through town
and into the hands of people smiling bright and quiet as stars. People
love each other leaned up against cars. At the powwow grounds,
teenagers walk in circles looking for each other. At powwow time,
grownups play blackjack in tin buildings and play stickgame until
the sun comes up smelling like coffee with no sugar. Some drummers
hold their throats while they sing, and fancy dancers, jingle dress
dancers, and tiny tots wait for the next intertribal.

At the high school, some teachers have taught at least two
generations of some families. Yes, there are some white
people who hate Indians and probably anybody brown but who
choose to live on a reservation. There are others who marry
Indian women and men. Yes, there are some people who never
leave because everything they love is here.

* * * * * * * *

Jennifer Greene was born and raised on the Flathead Reservation in Montana. She started writing poetry when she was 20 years old. She is married, has three children, teaches, works on history projects, and stays up until the wee hours of the morning to write and read. Her book, What I Keep (Greenfield Press, 1999), won the First Book Award for Poetry from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas. Her newest book is What Lasts (Foothills Publishing, 2011). "Arlee (my hometown" was published in the collection New Poets of the American West.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

David Shapiro, author of 'Ice Age Cataclysm!'

In this graphic novel for young readers, Ari, Jenna, and Caleb unlock the secret of time travel and journey back 15,000 years to witness the great Missoula Floods, the largest floods to have ever washed over the face of the earth.

This daring trio encounters a charging short-faced bear, giant mammoths, and saber-toothed cats. They tour changing landscapes from the back of the mythic Thunderbird and work together to survive the dangers of the Ice Age Cataclysm!

During this week's program, TWQ producer Chérie Newman talks with David Shapiro about this graphic novel, which is the first in a series titled Terra Tempo, and about his passion for making scientific information fun for kids. He also imitates the roar of a short-faced bear while reading from the book.

Hear the program Thursday evening at 6:30 ( or 7:30 (, or listen online, anytime.

Find out more about David Shapiro and his creative partners, Erica Melville and Christopher Herndon.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Poems: "Turtle Watchers" - by Linda Hogan

Old mother at water's edge
used to bow down to them,
the turtles coming in from the sea,
their many eggs,
their eyes streaming water like tears,
and I'd see it it all,
old mother as if in prayer,
the turtles called back to where they were born,
the hungry watchers standing at the edge of trees
hoping for food when darkness gathers.

Years later, swimming in murky waters
a sea turtle swam beside me
both of us watching as if clasped together
in the lineage of the same world
the sweep of the same current,
even rising for a breath of air at the same time
still watching.
My ancestors call them
the keepers of doors
and the shore a realm to other worlds,
both ways and
water moves the deep shift of life
back to birth and before
as if there is a path where beings truly meet,
as if I am rounding the human corners.

* * * * * *

Linda Hogan, Writer in Residence for The Chickasaw Nation, is an internationally recognized public speaker and writer of poetry, fiction, and essays. Her poetry has received the Colorado Book Award, Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, an American Book Award, and a prestigious Lannan Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. In addition, she has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship and has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, The Wordcraft Circle, and The Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association. "Turtle Watchers" was published in her collection, Rounding the Human Corners.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mary Jane Nealon

When she was nineteen years old, Mary Jane Nealon made a mistake that would haunt her for two decades: she moved away from her family when her beloved brother was dying of cancer.

In Beautiful Unbroken: One Nurse's Life, Nealon tells how her Irish Catholic religion had taught her that suffering was the only way to redemption. And so she took nursing jobs with cancer and AIDS patients, sometimes losing people she cared about at the rate of two or three a week, learning to carry huge loads of grief and pain.

But she also took poetry workshops. "It's probably accurate to say that poetry saved my life," Nealon said during a recent conversation with Chérie Newman, producer of The Write Question.

Hear that interview Thursday evening at 6:30 ( or 7:30 ( Or listen online.

Click here to see more information about Mary Jane Nealon, read reviews of Beautiful Unbroken, and find a link to subscribe to The Write Question podcast.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Poems: "Chasing The Sun Across The Hi-Line" - by Joseph R. McGeshick

The sun’s seasonal cycle southward
Started months before my small journey west

Back to the very minute after the longest day
The day that ended here in this treasure state

Working its same sunny wandering path
Along the changing horizon of giant steel elevators

Gray towers of grain from the Golden Triangle
From the Hutterites and undersized family farms

Slowly taking your set and arraigned moments
Unlike us who faithfully fail to plan the time ahead

Just before Halloween with its harvest moon
Over endless amber stubble both north and south

Almost the same moon that stood gleaming cold
Cold over last February’s heaped snow

My late start was out of the upper Missouri
Near a river bank once stacked with dead wolves and cord wood

Forcing me to chase the sun across the Hi-Line
Causing great worry even before the start

Autumn air warm with clear sunshine
Gave a false hope, un-lasting but convincing

Just until the vista of the Sweet Grass Hills
Or even the remembered flats southwest of Saco and Hinsdale

Again I fail and the sun slowly dips
Below the backbone of the world

Leaving only the dark and finally easing
My chase across the Hi-Line

* * * * * * * *

Joseph R. McGeshick was born in northeastern Montana on the Ft. Peck Indian Reservation. He grew up and attended school in Wolf Point along the upper Missouri River. On his father’s side, McGeshick is an enrolled Sokaogon Chippewa (Wisconsin) and on this mother’s side, he is both Assiniboine and Sioux (Ft. Peck). He has worked in the area of Indian education for the past thirty years as a teacher, administrator and advocate. He has taught at the high school, community college and university levels. McGeshick’s first book, a collection of poetry titled The Indian in the Liquor Cabinet, was published in 2006 and his second, Never Get Mad At Your Sweetgrass, is a collection of short stories published in 2007. He also co-authored The History of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana: 1600-2000 in 2008. McGeshick’s next work is a novel, Sister Girl, due out the fall of 2011. He lives and writes in northeastern Montana.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Advice from Richard Bausch

Although he's not a writer from the West, Richard Bausch he is "an exceptional and prodigious fiction writer whose many accolades include the PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction ... "

And, if you fancy yourself a writer, he offers these words of wisdom:

Ten Commandments

1. Read: "You must try to know everything that has ever been written that is worth remembering, and you must keep up with what your contemporaries are doing."

2. Imitate: "While you are doing this reading, you spend time trying to sound like the various authors -- just as a painter, learning to paint, sets up his easel in the museum and copies the work of the masters."

3. "Be regular and ordinary in your habits, like a Petit Bourgeois, so you may be violent and original in your work." -- borrowed from Flaubert

4. Train yourself to be able to work anywhere.

5. Be Patient. "You will write many more failures than successes. Say to yourself, I accept failure as the condition of this life, this work. I freely accept it as my destiny. Then go on and do the work. You never ask yourself anything beyond Did I work today?"

6. Be Willing. "Accepting failure as a part of your destiny, learn to be willing to fail, to take the chances that often lead to faulire, in the hope that one of them might lead to something good."

7. Eschew politics. "You are in the business of portraying the personal life, the personal cost of events, so even if history is part of your story, it should only serve as a backdrop."

8. Do not think, dream.

9. Don't compare yourself to anyone, and learn to keep from building expectations.

10. Be wary of all general advice.

* * * * * * *

These "Commandments" are posted on Richard Bausch's Web site.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Jenni Fallein, poet, painter, writing teacher, and yoga instructor

Although you can't see it on the front of the book (hear that story during tonight's program), the title of Jenni Fallein's first collection of poems is If Beauty Were a Spy.

Here are some comments about the collection:

"Just a few poems into If Beauty Were a Spy, I was thinking, how is Jenni Fallein doing this? The poems seem to thoroughly engaged in their compassion yet so necessarily detached in their irony, even when they're literally looking inside a mother's heart. I don't think anyone could be taught to write poems like these, the way they're profound, funny, informed, raw, elegant, compassionate, sardonic, and/or spiritual--all at once: The afterlife thing hides like a big dust bunny under the bed. Pedometers taunt, tempt and deceive like lovers. Reality TV meets the bedsores and sponge baths of terminal care for dying mothers. The body stripped of its skin and innards is 'all muscle and bone/exquisite.' The same goes for these poems. They're wonderful."

-- Greg Keeler, poet, professor, and author of Trash Fish: A Life

"Reading Jenni Fallein is like talking to a friend, a friend who is funny and irreverent, with a fondness for puns, and who has also taken as her calling a vocation of care. The hear of this book is about caretaking: of people and of plants, i.e. the garden, acts of hospice and hospitality and humility toward the world both global and immediate. She is not sentimental. She is not afraid of pain. Plain-spoken, sarcastic, but capable of exaltation, she celebrates 'the crazy chance to walk around in a body' at the same time as she is gutsy enough to title a poem 'I Hate Death.'

-- poet Melissa Kwasny, author of Reading Novalis in Montana

"Fallein consistently reaches a very fine pitch in her work. Consider the closing stanza of her title poem, "If Beauty Were a Spy" ... In this fancy, the female spy 'working for the CIA' is likened to pink morning glory at dawn, winding around and above any surfaces 'her fingers' meet. Fallein rises with her conceit:

in her final glory
days before the Equinox
she infiltrates
the bamboo chimes
event he wind

"I am left nearly breathless at her poise and control--a pitch she reaches in many moments in If Beauty Were a Spy."

-- O. Alan Weltzien,  poet, professor, and author of A Father and an Island: Reflections on Loss

Hear Chérie Newman's interview with Jenni Fallein Thursday evening at 6:30 ( or 7:30 ( Or listen by subscribing to The Write Question podcast.

More information about Jenni Fallein and If Beauty Were a Spy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Randy Lopez Goes Hom: A Novel, by Rudolfo Anaya

The following review, written by TWQ producer Chérie Newman, was published in the July 25, 2011 edition of High Country News.

Randy Lopez Goes Home: A Novel
Rudolfo Anaya
168 pages, hardcover: $19.95.
University of Oklahoma Press, 2011.

No one in the village of Agua Bendita, N.M., remembers Randy Lopez when he returns -- not even his own godparents. Did he stay away too long, seeking wisdom among the gringos? Has he lost his identity? Is Sofia, his true love, still waiting for him? These questions, and a swarm of others, trouble the protagonist of Randy Lopez Goes Home, an allegorical novel by Rudolfo Anaya, who is often described as "the godfather of Chicano literature."

On the Day of the Dead, Randy returns, riding an old swaybacked horse into the village. He meets a parade of characters, including Lilith, Death, and the Devil, who offer him advice and distraction. [read more]

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday Poems: "The Sri-Lankan's Golden Book" - by Sheryl Noethe

As I slept a small, gentle man handed me a book.
The spine was two strong twigs, the gold cover thin as tissue.
Markings undecipherable: could be Sanskrit, Arabic, Aramaic,
Something even more archaic.

As I run my fingers along the text, each name comes into my head.
I am an Iraqi woman cowering in her house with her children.
I hear her voice, feel the family around her, smell rice,
feel terror rip from their chests like blood-soaked silk.

I see eyes dark with indescribable suffering
I cannot lift my fingers from the pages, name without number.
Extending beyond culture and language into flesh.

Her red paper-thin shawl folds along her black hair down my shoulder.
I am next the suicide bomber, then his adoring younger brother.
I can not lift my hands. I weep as terribly as I've ever wept.
Until it wakes my husband. He pulls me from the dreams of blood.

This morning I call Judith to tell her the dream. I'm still shaky.
She whispers into the receiver, All of America, she says,
is having the same nightmare.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Sheryl Noethe has just been named as Montana's new Poet Laureate. She's also the director of the Missoula Writing Collaborative, a program that puts writers in the classroom to work with students. She has been awarded The McKnight Prize for Literature, a National Endowment for the Arts in Literature, a Montana State Arts Council Fellowship, the Hugo Prize from the University of Montana, and was chosen for the Pudding House Press Greatest Hits Collection. Noethe has also published a teaching text titled, Poetry Everywhere: Teaching Poetry Writing in School and in the Community.

"The Sri-Lankan's Golden Book" was published in Noethe's collection, As Is.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

David Mogen, author of 'Honyocker Dreams: Montana Memories'

When David Mogen was eight years old, he looked up from his Roy Rogers comic book and told his father that he wished they lived in the West. He dad snorted and asked, "Where the hell do you think we are?"

Where they were was 35 miles north of Highway 2, in the small town of Whitewater, Montana.

Young Mogen's confusion about "The West" in which he lived and "The West' he saw in movies, TV, and comic books, as well as the stories he read in library books, turned into his career as an English professor at Colorado State University. During that career (from which he recently retired), he published four scholarly books and two anthologies exploring literature and the frontier mentality. Now, he's written a memoir that includes stories about his parents and grandparents through a homesteader-rancher-myth-of-the-west lens.

Hear a few of those stories, find out what the word "honyocker" means, and ponder the connection between cyberpunk science fiction and the western frontier.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday Poems: "If You Had To" - by Sam Green

If you had to make the quill
pen in the old way, stripping
the feathers, cutting the well,
splitting & shearing the tip
off clean; if you had to grind
the ink, holding the cake
straight against the stone,
circling until your wrist ached
to get the proper tone of black;
would you wonder, as you sat before the paper
what sort of poem was worthy of your labor?

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Sam Green served for two years as Washington's Poet Laureate after being named to the position in December 2007 by Governor Chris Gregoire.

Sam is a distinguished poet and author of ten poetry collections, including The Grace of Necessity, which recently won the Washington State Book Award for Poetry. For nearly 30 years he has served as editor of Brooding Heron Press. Sam has been visiting poet and poetry teacher at Seattle University for several years and is active with the Skagit River Poetry Festival.

"If You Had To" was published in Green's collection, The Grace of Necessity, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2008.