The Write Question

A weekly literary program from Montana Public Radio that features writers from the western United States.

Called the Global Burden of Disease study, the monumental effort to understand how we live and how we die has at its center the brilliant, controversial economist and physician Christopher Murray, who has developed an entirely new way of discovering and comparing the worldwide toll of both the things that kill us and those that diminish the quality of our lives. His goal: to enable all of us to live longer and better lives.

From Where Roads Will Never Reach: Wilderness and Its Visionaries in the Northern Rockies, by Frederick H. Swanson ($24.95 softcover, ©2015 University of Utah Press)

"Moment: Grand Canyon"

May 18, 2015
Grand Canyon National Park Service

We have just arrived.
We are standing on the south rim
looking down, feeling our bodies slip

and fall away from us past the cliff face
into that deep space below. We feel light
and small now, our equilibrium shaken, as we watch

the raven riding thermals, its sleek black feathers
shining in the sun as it glides just above the rim
then drops down again. Out across the chasm

Shiva's Temple rises above a moat
of mist and seems to float. Someone aims
a camera, someone puts his hand in his pocket

Out of more the 160 submissions, Eric Heidle of Great Falls, Montana, took first place with his story titled “At Jackson Creek.”

"why print books"

May 11, 2015
Sabda Press

why print books he said
who needs books these days
everything's on the web

well i wouldn't know i said
i still enjoy turning pages
in a chair by the fire

still window-shop mainstreet
still relish a big screen matinee
buttered popcorn jujubes and milk duds

still sit and think about how
all last century carriages went horseless
and horses thank god are not extinct

still long for real letters in the post
the effort of someone's penmanship
the dear and sincerely yours

Sara Habein and Tyson Habein / Nouveau Nostalgia

Saif Alsaegh was a young boy living in Baghdad, Iraq, on September 11, 2001. At the time, he and the other members of his family didn't even know where Afghanistan was. But they had been "under the influence of war" for many years. During this program he talks about war and the effects his experiences have had on his art — writing poetry, plays, and films. He also reads from his collection of poetry titled Iraqi Headaches and talks about attending college in Great Falls, Montana.

"Stranded At Noon's"

May 4, 2015

Now that wet street smell
evening rush hour,
and I have a flat tire.
This morning
a dead dog in the ditch
a black roamer who would come in
and leave our yard sniffing.
Now this rain
this stranding at a gas station
this dead dog in the ditch day.

Two bearded house painters
push through the glass doors,
decide out loud not to pay taxes this year.
No forms in the post office
the day before they're due.

Call Me Home has an epic scope in the tradition of Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves or Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and braids the stories of a family in three distinct voices: Amy, who leaves her Texas home at nineteen to start a new life with a man she barely knows, and her two children, Jackson and Lydia, who are rocked by their parents’ abusive relationship. When Amy is forced to bargain for the safety of one child over the other, she must retrace the steps in the life she has chosen.

"Six Women Laughing"

Apr 27, 2015
Sean Dreilinger

Backdrop: spirit mountains,
rustling trees, sounds and scents
of late spring. Evening sun
squanders deepest crimson.
To this we drink and to our lives
come together fleetingly and full.
Birds flash at the feeder, call
of an Eurasian dove, an enormous
bee bumps into the glass.

Known worldwide as the “Richest Hill on Earth,” Butte, Montana, lured immigrants from every part of the world to sweat in the copper mines that powered America in its Gilded Age. Dozens of writers celebrated this “wide-open town” with impassioned novels of the rugged souls who braved the western frontier at the edge of the Continental Divide.

"Normal"

Apr 20, 2015
Paul Sullivan

At the Helena bus depot a deaf man and his sister
wait in a hard, sideways wind.
When the driver asks the man a question,
he points to his ears and shakes his head No.
Raising my eyebrows, I tilt my head,
circle a shape in the air with my hands,
sign language
?
His face breaks into such a good smile.
Yes! He nods his fist at the wrist, Yes, sign.

The Man Who Quit Money is an account of how one man learned to live, sanely and happily, without earning, receiving, or spending a single cent. Daniel Suelo doesn't pay taxes, or accept food stamps or welfare. He lives in caves in the Utah Canyonlands, forages wild foods and gourmet discards. He no longer even carries an I.D. Yet he manages to amply fulfill not only the basic human needs-for shelter, food, and warmth-but, to an enviable degree, the universal desires for companionship, purpose, and spiritual engagement.

Jasperdo

"English/Lang Arts 1: Story As Primer"
by Sabrina Holland (Helena)                                                                  

VERB

Mine.

Pray.

Return.

ADVERB

Thoroughly.

Kathleen Franklin

"Hoka hey"
by Michael Riley (Cody, WY)

Dave Smith

"At Jackson Creek"
by Eric Heidle (Great Falls)

The great Montana author Ivan Doig passed away today at 75. Here's an archived interview with Ivan Doig from "The Write Question".

"Knee-Deep"

Apr 6, 2015

The body—god box—holds
the stuffing, blunt-winded plot,
until it doesn't

    tissue of tiny details
soaking up gestures of wedding
parties, neurons, steering wheel,
sugar bowl, the solarium

the nectar ebbs from the design

an autopsy, the openings filled with liquids,
already locked-out of the house, embarrassed

The river bank has been dented—
material ghost, the knees lock-kneed, knee-deep

What is left is fact and its antihistamine

Helena, Montana, author Brian D'Ambrosio talks about his book Warrior in the Ring: The life of Marvin Camel, Native American world champion boxer.

About the book:

In the Golden Age of boxing, Marvin Camel, from the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, defied all obstacles of race, poverty, and geographical isolation to become the first Native American to win a world boxing title.

Why Americans Should Eat More Lentils

Mar 27, 2015

Early this March, students and faculty of the University of Montana turned out to listen to a farmer and a former country singer talk about a growing movement in America. Their message: support sustainable agriculture by eating more lentils.

Los Angeles Times and NPR film critic Kenneth Turan talks about and reads from his book Not To Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film.

"Working Class Hero"

Mar 23, 2015

He wakes tired from sleeping rough
in the cab of a pickup truck
that remembers the Vietnam war.
He wakes up raw-bellied
from going to sleep hungry,
from driving a hundred miles the night before
in his failing Ford,
from needing this job too much.

His flesh cringes from the cold breath
of a mountain beginning
its withdrawal into
the season of solitude.
His flesh cringes from premonitions
of being touched by frozen wood and iron
before the first sweat of the day
comes to break the morning chill.

Lentil Underground

Mar 18, 2015

Forty years ago, corporate agribusiness launched a campaign to push small grain farmers to modernize or perish, or as Nixon Administration Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz put it, to “get big or get out. But twenty-seven year-old David Oien decided to take a stand. When he dropped out of grad school to return to his family’s 280 acre farm, Oien became the first in his conservative Montana county to seed his fields with a radically different crop: organic lentils.  

"Outskirts"

Mar 16, 2015

Slept by a flat mud
reservoir with sandhill cranes
cluttering sound
all night

way out here
in the dragging wind.

We go for breakfast
smelling like sage, cow and creek water,
small town diner
a new mural half painted across old brick.

Remember how the waitress accuses us
of stealing postcards of their local boys
hometown band?

I tell you, she will not relent
despite all our defending
in our bright polypropylene fleeces
and reflective shoes.

Alexander Steinhof

For our 50th Anniversary Short Fiction Contest, we asked you to send a 700-word, or less, story in which Montana Public Radio is mentioned in some way. We'll be accepting entries until March 15, 2015. Winners will be announced in April. This story is by Ethan Zimmerman.

Malcolm Brooks talks about researching and writing his debut novel, Painted Horses.

About the book:

Catherine Lemay is a young archeologist on her way to Montana, with a huge task before her—a canyon “as deep as the devil’s own appetites.”

Kevin Trotman

For our 50th Anniversary Short Fiction Contest, we asked you to send a 700-word, or less, story in which Montana Public Radio is mentioned in some way. We'll be accepting entries until March 15, 2015. Winners will be announced in April. This story is by Geoff Badenach.

"Holding The Stone"

Mar 9, 2015

You must hold it close to your ear, and
when it speaks to you, you must respond. - Richard Hugo

I found it by the Clark Fork
on a high bank above the river
where someone dumped remains
of an old road, broken slabs
of concrete crowding the river stones.

I admit my first thought was throw it,
skip it on the surface going gold
in sunset, dimple the water like
whitefish rising, give it back
to the river that gave it shape and color.
But once in my hand its calm
And luck took hold.

For our 50th Anniversary Short Fiction Contest, we asked you to send a 700-word, or less, story in which Montana Public Radio is mentioned in some way. We'll be accepting entries until March 15, 2015. Winners will be announced in April. This story is by Frances Abbey.

“What is the worst that can happen?” she asked herself. “Humiliation? Dad’s disownment ?  Those are possibilities but not in the same category as being beaten, or thrown in jail.”

Spokane author Sharma Shields talks about and reads from her novel The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac.

"The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac is deeply strange and strangely moving. Like Kafka's The Metamorphosis, it demands and rewards surrender."

— Richard Russo

About the book:

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