Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Prose and Poetry about Conflict and Peace

August 24, 2011, Missoula, Montana (photos by Celeste River)
A few weeks ago, several dozen people gathered in the UCC Fireside Room on a Wednesday evening to hear prose and poetry about conflict and peace read by western Montana writers, poets, and others. Missoula's Mayor, John Engen, even popped in to read a Henry Real Bird poem.

Beth Ann Austein (she's the one wearing headphones, sitting at the far left side of the photo above) recorded the event, which has been edited into two programs that will air September 29 and  October 6.

The event and production of two The Write Question radio programs were funded by Women, War & Peace, a 5-part PBS series that documents the effects of modern wars on women and children. More information about that series is below. Also below, the entire reading on Vimeo.

Kim Anderson
Part 1 (September 29) begins with Kim Anderson, Associate Director of Humanities Montana, reading a short essay titled, "Unreasonable People - Myths About Pacifism," by Marcus Sedgwick (from Lines in the Sand).
Phil Condon

Then Phil Condon, Director of UM's Environmental Writing Institute, reads an abridged version of his essay, "On the Hill Above the Valley," which was published in his 2004 collection, Montana Surround.

Lisa Simon
Followed by Lisa Simon, creator and producer of Reflections West and literature teacher at UM, reading a passage from a book by written by another Lisa: A Thousand Sisters: My Journey Into The Worst Place On Earth To Be A Woman, by Lisa J. Shannon.

Mark Gibbons
The program ends with Mark Gibbons, poet and moving man, reading his poem titled "911" (which includes a few four-letter words that had to be bleeped for radio). He introduces himself with this statement: "I represent the blue-collar crowd."

You can hear it all Thursday evening, September 29, at 6:30 (YPRadio.org) or 7:30 (MTPR.org). Or, listen anytime online.

This program was funded by the upcoming PBS series, Women, War & Peace. Beginning October 11, Women, War & Peace will air on five consecutive Tuesday evenings on PBS stations. The series challenges the conventional wisdom that war and peace are men's domain-revealing how the post-Cold War proliferation of small arms has changed the landscape of war, with women becoming primary targets and suffering unprecedented casualties.

Watch the entire live reading on Vimeo:

"Prose & Poetry about Conflict and Peace" on Vimeo.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Poems: "For All" - by Gary Snyder

Ah to be alive
      on a mid-September morn
      fording a stream
      barefoot, pants rolled up,
      holding boots, pack on,
      sunshine, ice in the shallows,
      northern rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
      cold nose dripping
      singing inside
      creek music, heart music,
      smell of sun on gravel.

I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the soil
      of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
      one ecosystem
      in diversity
      under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.

*     *     *     *     *     

Poet, essayist, environmental activist and voice for the Deep Ecology movement, Gary Snyder (b. 1930) has authored more than two dozen publications since the 1960s and won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, among many other prestigious writing awards.

His work reflects his interest in Zen Buddhism, his identification as a member of the Beat Generation of writers, and the influence of a life lived in the American Northwest. "For All" is published in his Pulitzer-Prize-winning collection Turtle Island

His most recent works include The Etiquette of Freedom, a meditation on Earth-based consciousness that accompanies a documentary about his life — The Practice of the Wild, and the epic poem Mountains and Rivers Without End, published in 2008.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Julian Smith, author of 'Crossing the Heart of Africa'

Julian Smith had been with his girlfriend for nearly seven years. He'd (finally) asked her to marry him, and she'd said yes. But still, was experiencing anxiety about making such a "huge commitment." Then he discovered the story of a nearly forgotten nineteenth-century Victorian explorer.

In 1899, Ewart Grogan set out to become the first man to traverse the African Continent - from the Cape to Cario. Part of what grabbed Smith's interest was that Grogan set this heroic feat for himself in order to be worthy of his lady love. And so Smith set out on a similar journey in 2007.

Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure weaves three stories together into one book: Ewart's grueling two-year odyssey, Smith's two-month journey along stretches of that same route, and snippets of the modern-day-relationship story of Smith and his girlfriend, Laura.

During this week's program, Smith talks about Grogan, his own journey, and how the colonization of Africa contributed to its present-day brutal wars. He also reads from Crossing the Heart of Africa.

Tune in tomorrow evening at 6:30 (YPR.org) or 7:30 (MTPR.org). Or listen anytime online.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Poems: The Space Closest to Our Bodies - by William Studebaker

Imagine some tan grass and sage,
monoliths and blow outs,
flatness the feet cannot believe,
distance the eye laughs at
as it fumbles blindly
with the ends of all time.

Imagine everything here moves
(even the cactus will come close
to a sleeping man
and the beetle will tunnel
under the arch of his foot)
and a full half-moon
is enough light for gray things.

Here our secret voice is too loud.
When we think, the desert hushes...
so quiet jack rabbits can hear
owls listening with one ear...
so quiet when a vulture beckons
with the bones of our hand
our shadow makes a dragging sound
like dry skin over rock.

Inside our selves, there is nothing
anyone can say to us.
We learn to hear a voice
with no sound, with no tongue
with no mouth, as if the air
itself was a way of speaking.

We have become easily startled
because we are living
in the space closest to our bodies. 

*     *     *     *     *

William Studebaker was an Idaho poet and essayist. He published five collections of poetry and coedited Idaho's Poetry: A Centennial Anthology and Where the Morning Light's Still Blue: Personal Essays about Idaho. "The Space Closest to Our Bodies" is published in his book Travelers in an Antique Land, which also includes high-desert photography by Russell Hepworth. 

Studebaker served terms on the boards of the Idaho Writers' Connection, the Idaho Commission on the Arts and the Idaho Humanities Council. In 2005, he received the state's Outstanding Achievement in the Humanities award. He died at age 61 in a kayaking accident on the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River. His final book of poetry, About a Place Called Home, is unpublished.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Eric Poole and 'Where's My Wand?'

What to do with the dregs of a dysfunctional childhood? Write about it, of course.

But to cut through the continuous avalanche of memoir your story must be über unique. And what could be more unique than an eight-year-old boy prancing around the family's rathskeller (a "tarted up basement"), wearing an old bedspread and pretending to have the magical powers of Endora, Samatha's mother in the TV series, Bewitched? Not much.

Eric Poole's memoir, Where's My Wand?: One Boy's Magical Triumph over Alienation and Shag Carpeting, is a painful story told with scintillating wit and and a huge sense of humor. Booklist has this to say about it: "... The author’s humor is largely character-driven, focusing on his long-suffering father, his older sister, and his cleanliness-obsessed mother, who would be more than a match for Mr. Clean. Poole has his own obsession: Endora from Bewitched. Whenever things get tough, he dons a white chenille bedspread and becomes the Endora of St. Louis, imagining magical solutions to his many problems—bullies, his parents’ arguments, an enforced camping trip with mannish Aunt Jennie, his growing awareness of his homosexuality—with mixed success. Somewhere along the line, Endora is replaced by God, who doesn’t seem much more reliable, though Poole does become a demon trumpet player, which may—by the time he’s in high school—open the door to peer acceptance. Readers will be rooting for him." --Michael Car

Hear Eric Poole talk about and read from Where's My Wand? tomorrow evening at 6:30 (YPR.org) or 7:30 (MTPR.org). Or listen anytime online.

Find out more about Eric Poole and his book at the Montana Public Radio Web site.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Poems: "Evolution" - by Sherman Alexie

Buffalo Bill opens a pawn shop on the reservation
right across the border from the liquor store
and he stays open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

and the Indians come running in with jewelry
television sets, a VCR, a full-length beaded buckskin outfit
it took Inez Muse 12 years to finish. Buffalo Bill

takes everything the Indians have to offer, keeps it
all catalogued and filed in a storage room. The Indians
pawn their hands, saving the thumbs for last, they pawn

their skeletons, falling endlessly from the skin
and when the last Indian has pawned everything
but his heart, Buffalo Bill takes that for twenty bucks

closes up the pawn shop, paints a new sign over the old
charges the Indians five bucks a head to enter.

*     *     *     *     *

Sherman Alexie, Jr., is a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA. He is the author of 22 books, including two collections of poetry, I Would Steal Horses and The Business of Fancydancing, in which the poem “Evolution” appears, and the novels The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Ten Little Indians, and the The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. He lives with his family in Seattle, WA.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Three-Minute Fiction from NPR launches Round 7

If you're full of story ideas, but flummoxed by the maze of publishing options, think NPR.

"Three-Minute Fiction," a writing contest from NPR's "All Things Considered," will announce details for Round 7 tomorrow. The Web page also includes links to past stories and contest winners from Rounds 1 through 6.
Guy Raz

The idea for "Three-Minute Fiction" came from Guy Raz, host of weekend "All Things Considered." He recently talked with TWQ producer, Chérie Newman, about why he thought the contest was a good idea and how it has far surpassed his expectations.

Listen to Chérie Newman's interview with Guy Raz online.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

C.J. Box's Joe Picket novel, 'Nowhere To Run'

In Nowhere To Run, C.J. Box's tenth Joe Pickett novel, Pickett is in his last week as the temporary game warden in the isolated town of Baggs, Wyoming, but there have been strange things going on in the surrounding mountains, and his conscience won't let him leave without checking them out: reports of camps looted, tents slashed, elk butchered. What awaits him is like nothing he's ever dealt with, like something out of an old story, except this is all too real and all too deadly.

C.J. Box is the author of eleven Joe Pickett novels and three stand-alones, and has won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, Gumshoe, and Barry awards, as well as the French Prix Calibre .38 and the French Elle magazine literary award. His books have been translated into 22 languages. He lives in Wyoming.

Hear C.J. Box talk about and read from NOWHERE TO RUN during The Write Question Thursday evening at 6:30 (YPRadio.org) or 7:30 (MTPR.org).

Listen to the program online, get more information about C.J. Box, and/or subscribe to The Write Question podcast.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Monday Poems: "Ode On My Belly Button" - Kimberly Johnson

My original wound was my deepest:
half-inch divot where the cord shriveled off
and a plunging ache that never scabbed
where my umbilical name sloughed away, –
forgotten now, but it meant Belong. Whole
again and joyful when my ninth-month
belly swelled with genial weight, skin taut,
fullest at the center line where tender
the navel flattened out, its secret flesh
splayed to surface, until my familiar
agony: headlong and vulnerable,
our mutual attachment already
obsolescing, you inherit your original wound.
– No, original loneliness.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Kimberly Johnson lives in Salt Lake, Utah, and is the author of two collections of poetry, Leviathan with a Hook (2002) and A Metaphorical God (2008). "Ode on my belly button" as published in the Yale Review and in the latter collection.

Her poetry, translations, and scholarly essays have appeared widely in publications including The New YorkerSlateThe Iowa Review, and Modern Philology.