Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Richard S. Wheeler, author of 'The Richest Hill on Earth'

"Passionate, intelligently written, thoroughly entertaining historical fiction."

So says Kirkus Reviews about The Richest Hill on Earth, by Richard S. Wheeler, who has won six Spur Awards. Kirkus also named the novel a Best of 2011 Historical Fiction title.

This story is set in the late 1800s, in Butte, Montana, an industrial city built on and around the - actual - richest hill on earth. Butte was a dangerous and exciting place back then. It was a time when the Copper Kings wrestled each other for control of gold, silver, and copper deposits, as well as  Montana’s fledgling government.

Butte’s three founding fathers were remarkable men with little in common other than ambition. Marcus Daly, a humble Irish immigrant, led the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. His political rival, the formidable William Andrews Clark, a brilliant but vain businessman, bought himself a United States Senate seat. And Augustus Heinze tried to steal the mines, using lawyers and bribed judges, only to be crushed by the Rockefellers. The Richest Hill on Earth captures their struggle as well as the stories of the ordinary people—the miners, their wives and children, the journalists, and even the psychics—trying to make their fortunes in the rapidly-changing West.

During this week's program, Richard Wheeler will talk about the research he did for the the novel and read two passages from The Richest Hill on Earth. Listen to the program on the radio or online.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Poems: "Entering the Forest" -- by Carol V. Davis

You enter the forest
and it seals itself behind you.
How you find the opening
or where doesn't matter.
Only that you have crossed
an invisible threshold
and your previous life
vanishes imperceptibly
as if it were a snake
shedding, and you had missed
the moment when the old skin
becomes devoid of body and
the new one rustles down a foxhole.
All previous pain you have carried
with you, sewn carefully into secret
chambers, left behind.
The sun fileters through the lace
of leaves scattering into dust
a thousand years old.
The giant mushrooms embrace you
with such tenderness no lover
could ever match.
With each step memory fades.
There is no turning back.
The stench of decay is the only
smell you have ever loved,
the moss your only bed,
this life the only one imaginable.

*     *     *     *     *

Carol V. Davis was twice a Fulbright Scholar in Russia. Her work has been read on National Public Radio and Radio Russia. She won the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg (2002). She teaches at Santa Monica College and was the 2008 Poet-in-Residence at Olivet College, Michigan.

The above poem is published in New Poets of the American West, edited by Lowell Jager.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pair a talented young artist from Cincinnati (who dreams of becoming a famous painter) with a rancher-cowboy from Wyoming. Now try to imagine when that wife would find time to paint while cooking meals, cleaning up after guests, and helping with the daily chores necessary for running a large ranching business. And there you have Fra Dana: Impressionist of the Rockies, by Valerie Hedquist and Sue Hart.

For decades, Fra Dana was torn between her love for her husband, Edwin, and her love of art and travel. Judy Shaftner, writing for Lively Times, explains it this way:

"She particularly loved Paris and New York, cities she came to know intimately and where she sometimes rented studio spaces...

"Edwin Dana was seemingly supportive of his wife’s travels, and sometimes accompanied her. But in 1907, Dana wrote in her journal, 'I speak no more of my vanished dreams.'

"And in 1911, after 15 years of marriage, she wrote, 'I could fight the world and conquer, but I cannot fight the world and Edwin too; he will always pull against me in the life that I desire. So I shall give up. He has won. I will never bother him anymore with my desires or ambitions. Why struggle?'

"As much as she loved the outdoors and the ranch, the lifestyle was unfulfilling for Dana. She yearned for the company of other artists, literary conversations and the finer things in life."

During this week's program, Valerie Hedquist talks about this talented artist who chose husband over career. Listen to the program on the radio or online.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Monday Poems: "At the Equinox" -- by Arthur Sze

The tide ebbs and reveals orange and purple sea stars. 
I have no theory of radiance,  

               but after rain evaporates 
off pine needles, the needles glisten

In the courtyard, we spot the rising shell of a moon,
and, at the equinox, bathe in its gleam.

Using all the tides of starlight,
               we find
               vicissitude is our charm.

On the mud flats off Homer, 
I catch the tremor when waves start to slide back in;

and, from Roanoke, you carry         
the leafing jade smoke of willows.

Looping out into the world, we thread 
        and return. The lapping waves 
cover an expanse of mussels clustered on rocks; 
and, giving shape to what is unspoken,    

forsythia buds and blooms in our arms.           

*     *     *     *     *

Arthur Sze is the author of eight books of poetry, including The Redshifting Web (1988), Quipu (2005) and The Ginko Light (2009). His work has been honored with an American Book Award and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, among many others. 

Sze was elected Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2012, is a professor emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts, and is the first poet laureate of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Alan Weltzien talks about Thomas Savage

A few years ago, Alan Weltzien, a professor of English at The University of Montana-Western, set out to bring attention to an under-appreciated 20th century novelist, Thomas Savage. Thankfully, his efforts have resulted in renewed interest, by publishers and readers, in Savage's books.

Recently, Riverbend Publishing and Drumlummon Institute partnered up to re-print Lona Hanson, the fourth of Savage's thirteen novels.

Riverbend describes the book this way: "Originally published in 1948, one year after A. B. Guthrie’s The Big Sky, Lona Hanson establishes many of the themes of Thomas Savage’s later masterworks. In ranchwoman Lona Hanson, Savage creates an extraordinary character: passionate, driven, domineering, and ultimately tragic. As O. Alan Weltzien writes in his introduction to this new edition, 'Savage’s resistance to, even revulsion from, hack Western plots in film or print stamped his own independence as he set about writing the Rocky Mountain West he knew first hand, from the inside.'"

Although he left Montana when he was a young man, and claimed to hate his home state, many of Savage's novels were set in southwest Montana, including The Pass, Lona Hanson, and The Corner of Rife and Pacific.

During this week's program, Alan Weltzien will talk about the real people Thomas Savage based his characters on, and about some of the characters in Lona Hanson who are a "first-draft" of characters who appear in Savage's later novels.

Find out more about Alan Weltzien and Thomas Savage and listen to this program on the radio or online.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Poems: Untitled -- by Tsering Wangmo Dhompa

The ancients were wise
to save renunciation
for the end. My pain does
not affect the other,
not right now. It is
possible to alter position
with another as a mother does
but the lessons get harder
with age. It is not out of habit
we take flowers to the river:
a ritual brings us closer
to the unknown—the known,
we guess where they go.
Repetition (of rituals)
wherein the hands,
in time, cease.

*     *     *     *     *

Tsering Wangmo Dhompa lives in San Francisco but was raised in India and Nepal before moving to the U.S. Her parents fled Tibet in 1959, and she is the first Tibetan woman poet to be published in the U.S. She is fluent in several languages, including Tibetan, Hindi and Nepali and English.

Dhompa has received grants from the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Galen Rowell Fund and has been a writing fellow at the MacDowell Colony and Hedgebrook. She is the author of two books of poems -– Rules of the House, which was a finalist for the Asian American Literary Awards in 2003, and In the Absent Everyday (2005).

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mary Jane Nealon, author of 'Beautiful Unbroken: One Nurse's Life'

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.

Find out more about Mary Jane Nealon and read reviews of 'Beautiful Unbroken and listen to this program on the radio or online.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Poems: "A Certain Kind of Eden" -- by Kay Ryan

It seems like you could, but
you can’t go back and pull
the roots and runners and replant.
It’s all too deep for that.
You’ve overprized intention,
have mistaken any bent you’re given
for control. You thought you chose
the bean and chose the soil.
You even thought you abandoned
one or two gardens. But those things
keep growing where we put them—
if we put them at all.
A certain kind of Eden holds us thrall.
Even the one vine that tendrils out alone
in time turns on its own impulse,
twisting back down its upward course
a strong and then a stronger rope,
the greenest saddest strongest
kind of hope.
*     *     *     *     *

Kay Ryan is the author of several books of poetry, including Flamingo Watching (2006), The Niagara River (2005), and Say Uncle (2000). Her book The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (2010) won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Ryan has won awards from from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. She served from 2008-2010 as the   sixteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. She was born in San Jose, California, and has lived in Marin County, California, since 1971.