The Write Question

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

Wyoming author Alexandra Fuller talks about and reads from her third memoir, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness.

About the book:

"Best"

Oct 13, 2014

He told us a story of lightning splitting the lone tree
on a hill's top, killing three horses beneath it at once.

They lay that way through winter; come May, their
licked-clean bones gleamed from a bed to green tendrils

and clover. We knew it had meaning, the way he said;
nature takes care to spirit back what's hers; they'd

been his best. We watched him talk, then he stopped.
This comes to me today just as a curtain of white

sweeps the vineyard, buds thrashed by torrents combing
the rows, the clatter on glass waking my napping boy

Pete Fromm talks about and reads from his latest novel, If Not For This

About the book:

"Responsibility"

Oct 6, 2014

At the lower fence line under the stars
he hears what at first he takes
to be the neighbor's mare,
come to investigate his apple pocket,

but then gets that neck-chill
and knows otherwise and turns
to see by starlight alone a dust devil
spitting along perpendicular to the wire

and straight at him. He's seen thousands
of the things but never crossed paths
with one on foot, and watches
as long as he can before the grit

Bryce Andrews talks about his decision to move to a cattle ranch in Montana and about the memoir he wrote about his experiences there, Badluck Way. He also reads two passages from the book.

About the Book:

"Tide Blossoms"

Sep 29, 2014
Duane Niatum
Klallam Tribe, Native American, poet

She and I alone step down the shore.
I hold her close because she's a daughter of the sea.
We watch boats cross the jetty's corridor.

The autumn storm strikes our bodies with its lore
as the voices of the wind we hear and seek.
She and I alone step down the shore.

The clouds that spark return the blue to force;
the rain drowns out the breakers ebbing reefs.
We watch boats cross the jetty's corridor.

Carol Bradley, author of Last Chain on Billie: How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top, talks about the cruel lives of circus elephants and what we can do to stop it.

Utah author James Dashner talks about a few of the 16 books he's written, including The Maze Runner, which is now a feature film. He also describes the process of turning his childhood dream to be an author into reality.

About the book:

Joe Ashbrook Nickell talks about and reads from 'Tainted Revelations,' the book he wrote about painter and sculptor Bill Ohrmann.

Bill Ohrmann only began seriously painting when he retired from ranching in 1996. Since then, the 95-year-old Montana artist has produced hundreds of canvases that explore his blistering criticism of the modern West. His direct, narrative paintings, often inspired by quotations from his favorite poets and environmental writers, are by turns wry, apocalyptic, horrifying and hilarious.

Carrie La Seur talks about and reads from The Home Place, a mystery novel in which a successful lawyer is pulled back into her troubled family’s life in rural Montana in the wake of her sister’s death.

About the book:

"The Hermit's Work

Sep 1, 2014

They'll wonder
that I left

my things—

my name on folded forms,
the job I did.

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During this program Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford talks about and reads from his latest novel, Canada. He also considers character motivation, aging, the usefulness of fiction, and the many border crossings in the novel.

About the book:

First, I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then the murders, which happened later.

During this program, Christine Byl talks about her memoir, Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods, which describes her experiences working on trail crews in national parks in Montana and Alaska.

"Magpie"

Aug 18, 2014

Magpie
infernally
multiple,
gangster-gaggle
in a poplar snag,
long liver,
egg sucker,
eater of eyes,
murderer of unfledged
nestlings,
carrion cleaner
of our own
assorted
homicides –
deer,
dog, feral
cats, porcupine, never
mind,
hardly
a blood trace
left
by the next
afternoon –
glorious harlequin
Magpie,
coal snow
burnt ash
night moon
examiner,
and us
except as surfeit
flesh
found
wanting.

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

About the book:

" Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout"

Aug 11, 2014

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

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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.

"What Silence Is"

Aug 4, 2014

The Adagio in Rachmaninoff's
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor
is so sweet-sad you stop what
you're doing, you can hardly
turn your ears from its deliberate
infiltration, you remember
what you didn't want to remember,
the sweetness of early love,
the sad days and nights that follow,
the way days and nights collapse
into one another in the fury of live
which is so like what later you call hate,
there are no laws for this, shrapnel, shards,
shattering, the indistinctness, the disappearances,

Smith Henderson talks about and reads from his debut novel, Fourth of July Creek.

About the book:

"The Solitude of Ophelia"

Jul 28, 2014

...We know what we are, but know not what we may be... Hamlet, IV. v 44

My eyes open, lettuce leaves,
curling cabbages to look bitter inside
my terror, a skinned spine.
Creature of death, I welcome and eat you without pain.

The monster heart
gone to weeds.
I make mental contact with the lovers
watching TV in hotel rooms, share
wine with the carpet, spend
every buck I have.
Sell the typewriter.

Publisher Allen Jones talks about "re-invigorating" Bangtail Press and three recently-released anthologies of Montana writers, the Treasure State Readers.

Montana Bookstore Readers

"Montana Inventory"

Jul 21, 2014

At 85 miles an hour an insect splattered
like saffron on the windshield
and a white cloud in blue sky above the
     speed-curried bug

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Montana Then And Now

Jul 16, 2014

Hear fascinating facts about Montana's 150 years as a territory and a state during this interview with Aaron Parrett, author of Montana Then And Now.

"In A Field"

Jul 14, 2014

Here, in a field
Of devil's paintbrushes,
The circle of far trees
Tightens, and near bushes
Hump like ruins
When the moon floats loosely
Past the desolation
Owl moans wake. Here,
As if the world's
Last lovers, we
Have rung from the ruins
The whippoorwill's
Thrust of melody.
You have fallen asleep,
Breathing as the wind breathes
Among wetted thistle,
The scented vine,
And, listening, I move
My body toward you,
When a small convulsion
Shakes your hand,
The moonlight flashes

Laura Pritchett talks about and reads from Stars Go Blue, a novel in which a Colorado rancher and his wife deal with his diagnosis of Alzheimer's.

"To Carry Water"

Jul 7, 2014

There is the bird beak's way
and the way of the woman with child.

The eye's way
and the way of the well bucket.

The oak tree's way is not unlike that
of the cloud or the long dry summer it was

When the birdsong stopped,
and the woman stood tiptoe

looking down the well. Perched
on the handle of an unstrung pail, a wren

fluttered its wings without note. A leaf
floated, sinking slowly as the pail:

the rust holes, the caterpillar-chewed,
sipping in the weight of last year's skies.

TWQ producer Chérie Newman, Barbara Theroux, manager of Fact & Fiction Bookstore in Missoula, and Zed talk about recently-published books by authors from the western U.S.

NONFICTION

How To Read the American West:  A Field Guide, by William Wycokoff

Hiking Montana:  35th Anniversary Edition, by Bill Schneider an Russ Schneider

"Jada"

Jun 30, 2014

Are you frickin' kidding me?
Yes, Jada, woman, sister, yes
I am. Smile, Jada, there is more
to laugh at than you know.

In Haida, you pronounce the J.
Jada. It means woman. It says
sister, and in this matriarchal culture
gone to hell in a hand basket or a highbrow
hat that one woman remembers how to weave,
it is one hell of a handle, hell
for a fifteen year old to handle. Jada
who in the hell were they frickin kidding
when they named you?

Newspaper columnist and Montana rancher, Richard Geary, talks about rural culture then and now, and reads some of his essays.

Richard Geary is the eldest of the fourth generation to operate the family ranch in Helmville, Montana. The property was homesteaded by his great grandfather in 1867, and the original farm in Ireland is still in the family.  Richard acts as bookkeeper for the ranch, while his brother is responsible for the actual management. 

"Pow-wow Fever"

Jun 23, 2014

In a few days it strikes
Everyone in Indian Country,
Be Canada or wherever.

Drums vibrating,
The high pitched tones carry a chant.

Laughter of children,
Whispering of lovers,
Not too old or young to join.
Tipis, tents, campers and trailers
Stand symbolic as the sun sets.

The night carries many songs:
Contests, 49's, doorway songs and
owl songs,
"I will take you home,
in my one-eyed Ford!"

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