Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ruth McLaughlin's memoir, 'Bound Like Grass'

Stories that unfurl in remote corners of eastern Montana tend to be heartbreaking, and Bound Like Grass, by Ruth McLaughlin, is no exception. But McLaughlin does not wallow. Rather, she explores the influences that made her family what it turned out to be and comes to conclusions that can illuminate the emotional landscape of any family.

Bound Like Grass is an engaging story that encompasses three generations: the idealistic homesteader grandparents, the hard-working parents, and the children who grew up, moved away and never returned. Mary Clearman Blew, author of Bone Deep in Landscape: Writing, Reading, and Place has this to say about McLaughlin's memoir:

"In this beautifully written but stark account of one ranching family's ties to the land, Ruth McLaughlin refutes the romantic myths that have distorted our view of the agrarian past. I wept as I read Bound Like Grass, out of sympathy but also in admiration of the strength and clarity of vision Ruth brings to these pages."

Tune in Thursday, April 21, for The Write Question, at 6:30 (Yellowstone Public Radio) or 7:30 (Montana Public Radio) to hear Ruth McLaughlin talk about her family and her book. She'll also read from one of the chapters.

Get more information about Ruth McLaughlin and listen online.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Germaine White talks about 'Bull Trout's Gift'

“We were wealthy from the water,” Mitch Smallsalmon says, and like all the tribal elders, he speaks to our understanding of the natural world and the consequences of change. In Bull Trout's Gift: A Salish Story About The Value of Reciprocity, the wisdom of the elders is passed on to the young as the story of the Jocko River, the home of the bull trout, unfolds for a group of schoolchildren on a field trip.
The Jocko River flows through the Flathead Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana. For thousands of years the Salish and Pend d’Oreille Indians lived along its banks, finding food and medicine in its plants and fish, and in the game hunted on its floodplain. Readers of this story will learn, along with the students of Ms. Howlett’s class, about the history and culture of the river and its meaning in Native life, tradition, and religion. They will also discover the scientific background and social importance behind the Tribes’ efforts to restore the bull trout to its home waters.
Beautifully illustrated and narrated in the tradition of the Salish and Kootenai Tribes, this account of conservation as the legacy of one generation to the next is about being good to the land that has been good to us. Bull Trout’s Gift is steeped in the culture, history, and science that our children must know if they hope to transform past wisdom into future good.

During this week's program, Germaine White will talk about Bull Trout's Gift, and the field journal, and the interactive DVD that make up the Bull Trout Education Project's set of materials designed for grade school students. White is the Information and Education Specialist for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Natural Resources Department.

Hear the program at 6:30 p.m. ( or 7:30 p.m. ( Or, click through to the Montana Public Radio Web site to listen online or sign up for The Write Question podcast.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Poems: "Toward the Winter Solstice" -- by Timothy Steele

Although the roof is just a story high,
It dizzies me a little to look down.
I lariat-twirl the cord of Christmas lights
And cast it to the weeping birch’s crown;
A dowel into which I’ve screwed a hook
Enables me to reach, lift, drape, and twine
The cord among the boughs so that the bulbs
Will accent the tree’s elegant design.

Friends, passing home from work or shopping, pause
And call up commendations or critiques.
I make adjustments. Though a potpourri
Of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Sikhs,
We all are conscious of the time of year;
We all enjoy its colorful displays
And keep some festival that mitigates
The dwindling warmth and compass of the days.

Some say that L.A. doesn’t suit the Yule,
But UPS vans now like magi make
Their present-laden rounds, while fallen leaves
Are gaily resurrected in their wake;
The desert lifts a full moon from the east
And issues a dry Santa Ana breeze,
And valets at chic restaurants will soon
Be tending flocks of cars and SUVs.

And as the neighborhoods sink into dusk
The fan palms scattered all across town stand
More calmly prominent, and this place seems
A vast oasis in the Holy Land.
This house might be a caravansary,
The tree a kind of cordial fountainhead
Of welcome, looped and decked with necklaces
And ceintures of green, yellow, blue, and red.

Some wonder if the star of Bethlehem
Occurred when Jupiter and Saturn crossed;
It’s comforting to look up from this roof
And feel that, while all changes, nothing’s lost,
To recollect that in antiquity
The winter solstice fell in Capricorn
And that, in the Orion Nebula,
From swirling gas, new stars are being born.

* * * * *

This poem appears in Timothy Steele’s most recent book of poems, Toward the Winter Solstice. His earlier poems are collected in Sapphics and Uncertainties: Poems 1970-1986 and The Color Wheel. He has also published two volumes of literary criticism focusing on the lost arts of prosody and versification.

Much of Steele's poetry is written in traditional verse, using meter and rhyme, and so has been credited with contributing to the New Formalism movement in poetry.

Steele's work has earned a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the Los Angeles PEN Center’s Literary Award for Poetry, among other awards. He lives in Los Angeles and is a professor of English at California State University, Los Angeles.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Conversation about a few Good Books by Writers in the West

During this week's program, Chérie Newman, Barbara Theroux, and Zed talk about recently published books by writers from the West. Here's a list of the books they discuss during the progam, plus a few more:

FICTION for Young Readers:

Hangman's Gold, by Sneed B Collard

Wildwood: The Wildwood Chronicles, Book I, by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis

The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy

FICTION for Adults:

Lamb, by Bonnie Nadzam

Habibi, by Craig Thompson

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe: A Novel, By Charles Yu

The Richest Hill on Earth, by Richard Wheeler


The Sourtoe Cocktail Club: The Yukon Odyssey of a Father and Son in Search of a Mummified Human Toe ... and Everything Else, by Ron Franscell

All Indians Do Not Live In Teepees (or Casinos), by Catherine C. Robbins

Hand Raised: Barns of Montana, by Christine Brown, Chere Jiusto, and Tom Ferris

Bull Trout's Gift: A Salish Story about the Value of Reciprocity, by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

Raptors of the West: Captured in Photographs, by Kate Davis, Rob Palmer, and Nick Dunlop

Time of our lives: A conversation about America; Who we are, where we've been, and where we need to go now, to recapture the ... , by Tom Brokaw

West of 98, edited by Russell Rowland and Lynn Stegner


Rust Fish, a poetry collection by Maya Jewell Zeller

Our Blood Remembers: Poems, by Lois Red Elk

You'll find most of these books at Fact & Fiction in Missoula, or at your local independent bookseller.

Listen To The Program

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Poems: "Millennium Sutra" -- by Anne Waldman

what learned?
what trigger what reflection?

thus have I heard

This was something I dreamt waking
that the earth could
be scorched galactic cinder
frozen in orbit
about a gone sun

apocalyptic tongue'd preachers
line the mall
with glib glow & twitch
so that you sign on, sign on

give dollars,
& all around children begging
cranium resolve! cranium resolve!

& homeless in the streets
a bed for the night, will work, a bed...

vote apocalyptic
& you will get your war

thus have I heard

rain forests stripped & bare
no trove there
but all you could ever need—
a slump, a dress, a new life,
     tales to be greedy by—
is accessed on a poison machine

what need we trees?
they grow in the brain

thus have I heard

*     *     *     *     *

Anne Waldman, along with Allen Ginsberg and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, co-founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, where she serves as Distinguished Professor of Poetics and the Director of the famous Summer Writing Program.

Waldman is associated with the Beat poets and is an active member of the “Outrider” experimental poetry community as a writer, performer, collaborator, professor, editor, scholar, and cultural/political activist. She has published over 40 books of poetry, including: Manatee/Humanity (Penguin, 2009), Structure of the World Compared to a Bubble (2004), and Dark Arcana / Afterimage or Glow (2003), with photographs by Patti Smith. The above poem can be found in her collection In the Room of Never Grieve: New and Selected Poems, 1985-2003.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The following article, written by TWQ producer Chérie Newman, was originally published in the Billings Gazette.

Ed Kemmick showed up in Montana, in 1973, as a “citified teenager” who quickly developed a strong romantic desire: “I wanted not merely to live in Montana,” he writes in retrospect, “but to live out, in my own small way, the story of Montana as constructed by A.B. Guthrie.”

Emulating Boone Caudill — the central character in Guthrie’s famous novel, “The Big Sky” — turned out to be impractical. But Kemmick’s career in journalism has allowed him to experience another type of adventure. For 30 years he has written stories about Montana’s real-life characters. Now, some of those stories are available in a new book, “The Big Sky, By and By: True Tales, Real People and Strange Times in the Heart of Montana.”

Kemmick’s “real people” live in out-of-the-way places like Molt, Alzada, Fishtail, Culbertson and Fromberg. They also live in population centers like Billings, Livingston, Miles City and Butte. A few began life in Montana. Most did not. They range from the bizarre (a petrified man) to the saintly (a woman who makes the choice to care for her violent and cruel father during his old age). They are the flamboyant friends of Evel Knievel and a man from Fort Smith who has ridden motorcycles around the world — the long way — four times. They run the Dirty Shame Saloon, the Stoneville Saloon, a cowboy museum or a junks hop that has become a Chinese cultural museum. One woman “used to be the madam at the Wild Horse Pavilion and now she’s working as a greeter at the new Wal-Mart.” One man “used to eat a teaspoon full of arsenic every day to keep from dying.” They are black and brown and white and red. Musicians: Kostas, Dobro Dick, Roy Young, The Hogback Five.

At the end of each story, you will likely wonder what happened next. Did Jeff Hansen’s doctors find the right drugs to treat his inoperable brain tumor? Did the Bar Diamond Ranch sell? Was Johnnie Thomas able to finish writing the story of her husband’s life before she died?

Kemmick’s relationship with Montana began when he was an 18-year-old “intoxicated by the grandeur of Guthrie’s vision” of Big Sky Country in the mid-1800s. With this book, however, a mature, clear-eyed journalist claims a place on the list of writers who are replacing Montana’s worn-out romantic myths with the truth: Every sort of person lives in Montana.

Here’s hoping Ed Kemmick will write about many more of them.

Chérie Newman is a freelance writer from Missoula, where she produces a weekly literary program for public radio.

Copyright 2011 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Maile Meloy's new novel for middle readers, 'The Apothecary'

Even if you are not attracted to the fantasy genre, you may be happily surprised  by Maile Meloy's latest book. In a review of The Apothecary for the New York Times, (skeptic) Krystyna Poray Goddu wrote: "...the book, with its intricately constructed plot, well-paced suspense, credibly rendered fantastical elements, thoughtfully drawn characters and authentically detailed settings, satisfies on all levels. Even for a reader predisposed against the genre."

The story begins in Los Angeles, in 1952, when 14-year-old Janie Scott moves with her parents to London, England. There, she meets a mysterious apothecary and becomes fascinated by his son, Benjamin Burrows -- a 14-year-old boy who isn't afraid to stand up to authority and who dreams of becoming a spy.

Just before Benjamin's father is kidnapped, he gives Janie and Benjamin an ancient book, The Pharmacopoeia, insisting that they must keep it safe -- no matter what. It turns out that Russian spies want the book and will do anything to get it. Using the recipes for transformative elixirs they find in the book's pages, Janie and Benjamin stay one step ahead of the bad guys as they embark on a dangerous mission to save the apothecary and prevent impending nuclear disaster.

During this week's program, Maile Meloy will talk about where she got the idea for The Apothecary, her first novel for middle readers (she's the author of two adult novels and two story collections). She'll also read from the book and talk a little about her writing process.

You can hear the program on the radio or online:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Poems: "Deer Meat" -- by Patrick Todd

Thick frost on the trees
and crusted snow,
Sara hears Phil's boots

squeak on the ice
outside the bedroom window
She blows out

the kerosene lamp and lets her
sweater fall soft as a dust of feathers
to the floor      Phil slams

open the tailgate and lifts five logs
from the pickup     Back and forth, squeal of
hi boots, thud of the logs

on the back porch
Under blankets and a great
puffed quilt, Sara

waits, half dozing in their big
warm bed     One more chore before the night
is out, Phil saws the left

front flank and leg loose in
the wood shed     White moon above the roof,
the skinned three-legged deer hangs

upside down and headless
in the dark     The tarp, once
soaked in blood,

freezes in the cold
Cold the oil-black pine
board floor

*     *      *      *     *

Patrick Todd, a former creative writing university professor,  lives and writes in Missoula, Montana.

His poem "Deer Meat" can be found in his fourth book of poetry, A Farm Under Poplars.