Sunday, October 30, 2011

Monday Poems: "Scary Movies" -- by Kim Addonizio

Today the cloud shapes are terrifying,   
and I keep expecting some enormous   
black-and-white B-movie Cyclops   
to appear at the edge of the horizon,

to come striding over the ocean   
and drag me from my kitchen   
to the deep cave that flickered   
into my young brain one Saturday

at the Baronet Theater where I sat helpless   
between my older brothers, pumped up   
on candy and horror—that cave,
the litter of human bones

gnawed on and flung toward the entrance,   
I can smell their stench as clearly
as the bacon fat from breakfast. This   
is how it feels to lose it—

not sanity, I mean, but whatever it is   
that helps you get up in the morning
and actually leave the house
on those days when it seems like death

in his brown uniform
is cruising his panel truck
of packages through your neighborhood.   
I think of a friend’s voice

on her answering machine—
Hi, I’m not here—
the morning of her funeral,   
the calls filling up the tape

and the mail still arriving,
and I feel as afraid as I was
after all those vampire movies   
when I’d come home and lie awake

all night, rigid in my bed,
unable to get up
even to pee because the undead   
were waiting underneath it;

if I so much as stuck a bare
foot out there in the unprotected air   
they’d grab me by the ankle and pull me   
under. And my parents said there was

nothing there, when I was older   
I would know better, and now   
they’re dead, and I’m older,   
and I know better.

*     *     *     *     *

Poet and novelist Kim Addonizio lives and works in Oakland, CA. She has been awarded two NEA fellowships as well as a Pushcart Prize for poetry and essay. 

"Scary Movies" can be found in her 2004 collection What is This Thing Called Love. Her most recent poetry collection is Lucifer at the Starlite (2009). 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ed Kemmick captures Montana characters (in print)

Shortly after Ed Kemmick moved from Minneapolis to Missoula to attend The University of Montana, he and a friend from New York fell under the spell of A.B. Gutherie's novel, The Big Sky.

"We wanted to be Boone Caudill and his friends Jim Deakins and Dick Summers," Kemmick writes. "In the afternoon, after our classes were over, we'd leave our dorm rooms in Duniway Hall and tramp up Hellgate Canyon. We'd build a fire in a swale not far from the river and sit there drinking quart bottles of Lucky Lager, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and palavering in our best imitation of our new heroes, larding our speech with 'I reckon,' 'this child' and 'I'm thinkin.'" They decided to live outside like their heroes, to camp out under the stars, to live on their own, "answerable to no one ... "

Fortunately for us (readers), that plan did not work out. Instead, Kemmick became a journalist and began to write about real, living Montana characters, folks like Dobro Dick, the cowboy and wandering musician who nudged Kemmick into putting together a collection of his stories -- which he did. That collection is titled, The Big Sky, By and By: True Tales, Real People and Strange Times in the Heart of Montana.

About the book, Russell Rowland (author of In Open Spaces and The Watershed Years) writes: "Ed Kemmick has an uncanny knack for finding interesting people and bringing them to life with words."

Hear Ed Kemmick talk about and read from The Big Sky, By and By Thursday evening at 6:30 ( or 7:30 (

Click here to find out more about Kemmick, access links to his Web site and a review of the book, and listen to the program online.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Poems: "October Larches" -- by Robert Pack

Across the mountainside in evening sun
Golden October larches flare,
As if they could delay dark days to come,
Winter encroaching everywhere

My momentary mind can reach.
And in the lake, silent as brooding inwardness,
The larches now are doubled, each
With a true partner in itself,

A multiplying plenitude of one,
Repeated and repeating in my mind.
Reflecting on its own reflections, stunned,
With bold illumination of a kind

Beyond what golden sunlit larches teach
Of how to face the all-dividing dark, I find
A multiplying plentitude of one
Across the mountainside in evening sun.

*     *     *     *     *

Robert Pack lives in Condon, Montana, and is a Distinguished Senior Professor in the Davidson Honors College at the University of Montana - Missoula

He has written 22 books of poetry and criticism, including his most recent poetry collection, Laughter Before Sleep (2011). His poem "October Larches" appears in his 2004 collection Elk in Winter

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Robin Troy, author of 'Liberty Lanes'

In a world full of ramped-up, fast-paced fiction, it's nice to find a quiet story, a story about people like you and me, folks who have trouble deciding what something means and sometimes say the wrong thing. But, at least in this case, quiet doesn't mean boring.

The characters in Troy's novel, Liberty Lanes, are a group of elderly bowlers. But they do not slide into the box of stereotypes about aging without a fight. Nay, they are too busy living life to its fullest for that nonsense. They have romantic flings, gossip, and meet up for lively bowling sessions three times each week.

Debra Magpie Earling (author of Perma Red) writes, "Liberty Lanes is a transcendent story about the power of love and friendship. A tender and moving tale, a joy to read."

Hear Robin Troy talk about and read from  Liberty Lanes during this week's program:

Yellowstone Public Radio, Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Montana Public Radio, Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Online or via our podcast, anytime.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Poems: "On the Bank of the Nameless River" -- by Chris Ransick

In the end, all rivers are nameless,
just as currents folding back and back
where water bends against the bank
are nameless, the water itself different
and indifferent in that crook
of river, though ripples repeat shape,
change ceaselessly. Chunks of sandstone
lie nameless. Cottonwoods rising on sand spits
splitting the water may have names
but ones I’ll never know. A red fox
hunting the riverbottom this May morning
does not call her prey by name nor
name her pups, nourished on blood
milled in anonymous bones.
Spring’s first crickets scratch
from tall grass on the bank a descant
to the river’s full-throated song
as wind throbs through willows
and sweeps down-valley, carrying tales
off the fractured black peak, and all of it
is nameless. What would I call this place?
What voice could join these harmonies
and last as long as water and wind?
From now on, I will go nameless,
without fear of vanishing,
listening for my feet upon earth.

*     *     *     *     *
Poet Chris Ransick served as Denver's poet laureate from 2006 to 2010. He teaches at Lighthouse Writers Workshop, an independent creative writing program in Denver.

Ransick has published four volumes of poetry, including Lost Songs and Last Chances and his most recent publication, Asleep Beneath the Hill of Dreams.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Neil McMahon, author of L.A. Mental

After publishing ten novels, Neil McMahon's first thriller, L.A. Mental, is a mind-bending blend of nano-tech paranoia and classic murder mystery, set in a city on the edge.

Psychologist Tom Crandall is thrown for a loop when his drug-addled brother, Nick, jumps from a Malibu cliff, barely surviving the fall. Things only get weirder when he discovers that Nick has been blackmailing members of their family, including their brother Paul, who is financing a movie by a scientist with some odd theories about human behavior. Heading to the set, Tom meets the charismatic—albeit enigmatic—physicist-turned-filmmaker, and not long after he begins experiencing wild mood swings between euphoria and anger. And he is not alone—all over the city people seems to be coming unhinged: a respected judge goes berserk, a wealthy celebrity widow is found floating unconscious in her pool, a brilliant astrophysicist runs onto a busy freeway and is killed. What is going on? Are Tom and the others caught in some terrifying scheme? Can he get to the bottom of things before it is too late?

Hear Neil McMahon talk about and read from  L.A. Mental during this week's program:

Yellowstone Public Radio, Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Montana Public Radio, Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
KREV-LP, rotating weekday mornings
Online or via our podcast, anytime.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Poems: "A Map to the Next World" by Joy Harjo

In the last days of the fourth world I wished to make a map
for those who would climb through the hole in the sky.

My only tools were the desires of humans as they emerged from the killing fields,
from the bedrooms and the kitchens.

For the soul is a wanderer with many hands and feet.

The map must be of sand and can't be read by ordinary light.
It must carry fire to the next tribal town, for renewal of spirit.

In the legend are instructions on the language of the land,
how it was we forgot to acknowledge the gift, as if we were not in it or of it.

Take note of the proliferation of supermarkets and malls, the altars of money.
They best describe the detour from grace.

Keep track of the errors of our forgetfulness; a fog steals our children while we sleep.

Flowers of rage spring up in the depression, the monsters are born there of nuclear anger.

Trees of ashes wave good-bye to good-bye and the map appears to disappear.

We no longer know the names of the birds here,
how to speak to them by their personal names.

Once we knew everything in this lush promise.

What I am telling you is real and is printed in a warning on the map.
Our forgetfulness stalks us, walks the earth behind us,
leaving a trail of paper diapers, needles and wasted blood.

An imperfect map will have to do little one.

The place of entry is the sea of your mother's blood,
your father's small death as he longs to know himself in another.

There is no exit.

The map can be interpreted through the wall of the intestine --
a spiral on the road of knowledge.

You will travel through the membrane of death,
smell cooking from the encampment where our relatives make a feast
of fresh deer meat and corn soup, in the Milky Way.

They have never left us; we abandoned them for science.

And when you take your next breath as we enter the fifth world there will be no X, 
no guide book with words you can carry.

You will have to navigate by your mother's voice, renew the song she is singing.

Fresh courage glimmers from planets.

And lights the map printed with the blood of history,
a map you will have to know by your intention, by the language of suns.

When you emerge note the tracks of the monster slayers
where they entered the cities of artificial light and killed what was killing us.

You will see red cliffs. They are the heart, contain the ladder.

A white deer will come to greet you when the last human climbs from the destruction.

Remember the hole of our shame marking the act of abandoning our tribal grounds.

We were never perfect.

Yet, the journey we make together is perfect on this earth
who was once a star and made the same mistakes as humans.

We might make them again, she said.

Crucial to finding the way is this: there is no beginning or end.

You must make your own map. 

*     *     *     *     *

 Joy Harjo, born in Oklahoma, has won multiple awards for her poetry. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of IowaShe is a member of the Cherokee tribe of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of OklahomaIn 1995, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas.

This poem can be found in her collection A Map to the Next World. Her other books of poetry include How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems; The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, which received the Oklahoma Book Arts Award; and In Mad Love and War, which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award.

Harjo has also published two children's books and plays saxophone. She currently lives in Hawaii.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Prose and Poetry about Conflict and Peace, Part 2

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. Part 1 aired on September 29.

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.

David Moore
Part 2 begins with David Moore, Professor of Literature at The University of Montana, reading a passage All Indians Do Not Live In Teepees (or Casinos), by Catherine C. Robbins.

Sheryl Noethe
Then Sheryl Noethe, Montana's current Poet Laureate and Creative Director of the Missoula Writing Collaborative, reads two of her poems, "What the Old Poet Heard" and "They Will Say God" (published in her collection As Is).

Shaun Gant

Followed by Shaun Gant, playwright, poet, and high school English teacher, reading a passage from Finding Beauty in a Broken World, by Terry Tempest Williams.
Kevin Canty

And Kevin Canty, author of 4 novels, 3 story collections, and creative writing professor at The University of Montana, reads a short, short story written by Isaak Babel.

Chérie Newman
The program ends with Chérie Newman, creator and producer of The Write Question, reading a poem by April Halprin Wayland: "13 Ways Of Looking At Peace"

You can hear it all Thursday evening, October 6, at 6:30 ( or 7:30 ( Or, listen anytime online.

This program was funded by the upcoming PBS series, Women, War & Peace. Beginning October 11, the series 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, October 3, 2011

Monday Poems: "Gone Fishin'" - by Lowell Jaeger

With a couple of green apples stowed
in his t-shirt, a fishpole, can of red worms,
he bounced over washboard backroads
until the gravel ended. Where his rusty bike
under cover of goldenrod and raspberry thickets
would nap the afternoon while he pushed on
along the cow path, through bowed heads
of timothy nodding to the whims of every significant
breeze, down into the cattails below groves
of birches, sunlight quaking in the fragile
palm of each silvered leaf. I follow

him the last few yards of dogwood jungle
again this morning because I never could invent
a more perfect way to lose a cloudless day.
Inside the glass of this conference-center highrise,
I suffer a curious lack of concern
in the serious business of our adult lives.
Cover for me, please, if the boss should notice
how I smile at the oddest moment,
our poor ledger sheet sagging with gloom.
I know how the river still flows past sloughs
of spawn. I can almost taste the green
of those fresh-picked apples. So why worry
over my empty pockets? I'll steal off with the boy
who runs beside me. I'll string a willow reed
with a hundred bluegills, before I leave this room.

*     *     *     *     *
Lowell Jaeger  is a Montana poet who teaches creative writing at Flathead Community College in Kalispell. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council. He lives in Yellow Bay, Montana, on the Flathead Lake.

"Gone Fishin'" appears in his 2008 publication, Suddenly, Out of a Long Sleep. He has published many books of poems, including his most recent, WE (2010), and he has edited anthologies of both Montana and western poetry.