Monday, January 30, 2012
It takes me a minute to find my glasses.
I press my face to the window.
A silver flash crosses the yard.
It settles into an owl shape on a nearby post.
My nose and eyes are stinging.
A stinging behind my face.
Like some kind of problem behind a billboard.
Why would a man look at an owl and start to cry?
My body is trying to reject something.
I have no idea what that is.
The owl is sitting in the moonlight.
The yard is completely still.
* * * * * *
Michael Earl Craig was born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1970. He earned degrees from the University of Montana and the University of Massachusetts. He is the author of Can you Relax In My House (Fence books, 2002) and Yes, Master (Fence Books, 2006). "Night Visit" was published in his 2010 collection titled, Thin Kimono (Wave Books). Craig is a certified journeyman farrier and lives near Livingston, Montana, where he shoes horses for a living.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
In West of 98: Living and Writing the New American West, western writers speak to the ways in which the West imprints itself on the people who live there, as well as how the people of the West create the personality of the region. The writers explore the western landscape--how it has been revered and abused across centuries--and the inescapable limitations its aridity puts on all dreams of conquest and development. They dismantle the boosterism of manifest destiny and the cowboy and mountain man ethos of every-man-for-himself, and show instead how we must create new narratives of cooperation if we are to survive in this spare and beautiful country. The writers seek to define the essence of both actual and metaphoric wilderness as they journey toward a West that might honestly be called home.
A collective declaration not of our independence but of our interdependence with the land and with each other, West of 98 opens up a whole new panorama of the western experience.
Find out more about Lynn Stegner and Russell Rowland, and West of 98, when they talk about and read from the book during this week's program. You can listen to the program on the radio or online:
Monday, January 23, 2012
in Manila, a stone came down
on her head like manna from heaven.
The newspaper said,
“She was a bad housewife, and besides,
her poetry wasn’t lucid.”
And Ai Qing, sweet uncle,
is three years gone. He bears witness now
only in an unfinished translation
collecting dust on my desk
and a thin aerogram pinned,
flapping on the wall.
Saying, “Dear Disciple,
you must never forgive them.
They have wasted my life!”
As the third world shakes
her tin roofs into the sun,
and the moon devours our Western elderberry,
I sit here on the eve of the revolution
in my inexpensive camisole
(the one that Santa brought me).
The joke is sad and is on me.
I scrawl this invective to you,
“a certain American poet,”
who has licked so many donkeys
that your tongue stays salty.
I will not lay my body down yet.
So, my lutestrings are broken,
and a giant cloud gathers rain over my piano.
The world left fallow will not be tilled—
each blade has been devoured,
each mote enslaved. Those we wish dead
will thrive past a hundred, those we esteem
will be sullied by thirty-three.
And I, once Guanyin’s timid girlchild,
who teethed among the thieves
and suckled amidst the murderers—
I/we today are thirty-two.
As the rabbit sacrifices its tail
and escapes into the burrow,
the dragon appears, loud and sodden,
with a taste of cotton and thistle
in his ever lustful maw. And again,
he shall not have her!
Ai Qing: Chinese revolutionary and poet
Guanyin/Kuan Yin: The Goddess of Mercy
* * * * *
Poet Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Portland, Oregon. Her books are taught in classrooms internationally. They include: Rhapsody in Plain Yellow, The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty and Dwarf Bamboo. She is also the author of a novel, Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
This novel does more than tell a story, however, it illustrates a sharp contrast between the attitudes and opportunities available to Americans 110 years ago and in the present time.
“An enjoyable, meaty read — a vision of a place told through the people who find themselves at the edge of America's idea of itself.” –Los Angeles Times
Hear Jonathan Evision, a lively and passionate writer and advocate, talk about West of Here and read two passages from the novel during this week's program.
You can listen to the program on the radio or online:
- Thursday, January 19 at 7:30 p.m. on Montana Public Radio
- Thursday, January 19 at 6:30 p.m. on Yellowstone Public Radio
- Online, anytime at MTPR.org
- Via the MTPR podcast
Monday, January 16, 2012
borrowed from the ground in California,
five acorns glisten and roll.
"Dad! These could be bullets!
Will you help me make a gun?"
His eyes look up into mine.
"Or Dad! They could be magic
seeds! Will you help me make
a bag with a hole--so
they drop along the path
and grow?" I take his hand in mine.
"Little friend, we must decide."
* * * * *
This poem is printed in New Poets of the American West, Lowell Jaeger, ed.
Friday, January 13, 2012
The language was given a voice when Mr. Bass began reading. He grew up in the South so he has a slight accent. I enjoyed the sound of his quiet, story-telling voice. He read an essay he wrote called "Shy." In it, he describes shyness as feeling very far away from everything, and this description was so accurate that I decided, “I like this guy.” Afterward, I wanted to have him sign Winter for me but there were so many people, and I felt far away, so I scurried out the door.
I went home and read Winter. In it a younger Rick Bass and Elizabeth, his then girlfriend and current wife, drive through several western states looking for a private place in the wilderness where they can live and practice their art. They wind up in a place called Yaak in Montana near the Canadian border, a valley with no electricity or phones, and just a few year round residents. They become caretakers of a ranch, and spend their first harsh winter there. According to Bass, once he survives the winter he will become a “resident” and fit in better with the local loggers and ranchers.
A recurring theme in the book is Bass’ determination to secure enough firewood to last through the season. He figures he needs thirty to forty cords. He’s gotten a late start so he doubles his efforts through the fall and into winter. He uses his Falcon since the transmission is out on his pickup. He humorously describes one trip where he had wood piled everywhere on the inside and strapped to the outside of his car, including on the dashboard and in the glove compartment.
He cut, hauled and split all of the wood himself. This was a cold, silent winter with no television or other entertainment. Being where he was, in the mountains above Whitefish and Libby, I like to think he had access to some Rob Quist music to get him through.That would have been perfect. What better way to calm the chemical stirrings in the back of the brain that he calls the “winter blahs.”
I think the white quietness of the mountains would get the better of me, and I’ve lived in Montana my entire life. Mr. Bass makes it, proves to himself and the locals that he is a survivor, and finds a new home.
I highly recommend this book.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Margo's river odyssey through rural Michigan becomes a defining journey, one that leads her beyond self-preservation and to deciding what price she is willing to pay for her choices.
In Once Upon A River, Bonnie Jo Campbell's writing is penetrating and powerful, and she joins the ranks of America's most poignant novelists. About the novel, Washington Post reviewer Ron Charles wrote, "Without sacrificing any of its originality, this story comes bearing the saw marks of classic American literature, the rough-hewn sister of The Leatherstocking Tales, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Walden."
During this week's program, Campbell talks about Margo Crane's odyssey and reads from Once Upon A River.
You can hear the program on the radio or online:
- Thursday, January 12 at 7:30 p.m. on Montana Public Radio
- Thursday, January 12 at 6:30 p.m. on Yellowstone Public Radio
- Online, anytime at MTPR.org
- Via the MTPR podcast
Sunday, January 8, 2012
(Not like a wood fire which is only
The end of summer, or a life)
But something of darkness, heat
From the time before there was fire
And I have come here
To warn that blackness into forms of light,
To set free a captive prince
From the sunken kingdom of the father coal.
A warming company of the cold-blooded--
These carbon serpents of bituminous gardens,
These inflammable tunnels of dead song from the black pit,
This sparkling end of the great beasts, these blazing
Stone flowers diamond fire incandescent fruit.
And out of all that death, now,
At midnight, my love and I are riding
Down the old high roads of inexhaustible light.
* * * * *
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
In these stories, Ray grapples with the terrible hurt we inflict on those we love, and finds that reconciliation, if far off, is at least possible. The debut of a writer who is out to redefine the contours of the American West, American Masculine is a deeply felt and fiercely written ode to the country we left behind.
“Shann Ray writes about small western towns and their residents in tough, poetic, and beautiful ways. I recognize many of these people, and that’s good, but I’m also surprised and stunned by many others, which is great. Buy the book and read it tonight. You’ll love it, too.”
“Ray’s stories resonate hard and clear, very much word images reflecting the Montana setting of the collection. . . . Almost every story is set under the great blue steel dome of the Montana sky. Almost every story follows a hard man who cannot understand where hardness should end. Almost every story watches as a lonely woman attempts to love such a man without understanding the anger, the hurt and the loneliness beneath the iron. Think Hemingway or Jim Harrison, and know that Ray's collection is the deserving winner of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Bakeless Prize.”
Monday, January 2, 2012
* * * * *
Lawson Fusao Inada is an emeritus professor of writing at Southern Oregon University in Ashland and was the fifth poet laureate of the state of Oregon, serving from 2006-2010.
Inada's work has been recognized with fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Book Award, the Oregon Book Award and the Pushcart Prize.
He is the author of three collections of poetry—Legends from Camp, Before the War and Drawing the Line, in which the above poem is included. He is also the coeditor of two ground-breaking anthologies of Chinese American and Japanese American Literature: The Big Aiiieeeee!: An Anthology of Chinese American and Japanese American Literature and Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience.