The Write Question

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

"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!"

Jungle of Bones, a children's novel by Ben Mikaelsen
WWII bomber, Papau New Guinea, children's book, Montana author

Children's author Ben Mikaelsen talks about his inspiration for Jungle of Bones and reads from the novel.

About the Book:

Dylan gets caught taking a joyride in a stolen car and shipped off to live with his ex-Marine uncle for the summer. But Uncle Todd has bigger plans for Dylan than just early-morning jogs.

"This Morning"

Jun 16, 2014

“Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?”
                                    – Roethke

It’s time. It’s almost too late.
Did you see the magnolia light its pink fires?
You could be your own, unknown self.
No one is keeping it from you.

The magnolia lights its pink fires
daffodils shed papery sheaths.
No one is keeping you from it—
your church of window, pen and morning.

Peter Stark talks about and reads from ASTORIA: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival.

About the Book:

In 1810, John Jacob Astor sent out two advance parties to settle the wild, unclaimed western coast of North America. More than half of his men died violent deaths. The others survived starvation, madness, and greed to shape the destiny of a continent.

"Little Girl"

Jun 9, 2014

She's with Grandma in front
of Grandma's house, backed
by a willow tree, gladiola and roses.

Who did she ever want
to please? But Grandma
seems half-pleased and annoyed.

No doubt Mother frowns
behind the lens, wants
to straighten this sassy face.

Maybe laughs, too.
Little girl with her mouth wide,
tongue out, yelling

at the camera. See her little
white purse full of treasure,
her white sandals?

She has things to do,
you can tell. Places to explore
beyond the frame,

During this program, Molly Caro May talks about her nomadic childhood and her search for a place to "be from." She also reads from her new memoir, The Map of Enough: One Woman's Search for Place.

"A Sonnet for Everett Ruess"

Jun 2, 2014

You walked into the radiance of death
through passageways of stillness, stone, and light,
gold coin of cottonwoods, the spangled shade,
cascading song of canyon wrens, the flight
of scarlet dragonflies at pools, the stain
of water on a curve of sand, the art
of roots that crack the monolith of time.

You knew the crazy lust to probe the heart
of that which has no heart that we could know,
toward the source, deep in the core, the maze,
the secret center where there are no bounds.

James Lee Burke talks about his latest Dave Robicheaux crime novel, Light of the World. He also reads a passage from the book and drops a few hints about his next novel.

The music in this program was written and performed by John Floridis.

"Beside the Road While Our Nation Is at War"

May 26, 2014
Kim Stafford
writer, western U.S., poet

In our son's young hand,
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."

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During this program, Minerva Allen talks about her role as a guardian of tribal culture. She also reads from her collection of poetry, Nakoda Sky People, and from Stories from the Elders: Nakoda Horse Society.

"Teaching Poetry to 3rd Graders"

May 19, 2014
Gary Short
poet, teacher, Nevada author

At recess a boy ran to me
with a pink rubber ball and asked
if I would kick it to him. He handed me the ball,
then turned and ran
and ran and ran, not turning back
until he was far out in the field.
I wasn't sure I could kick the ball
that far. But I tried,
launching a perfect and lucky kick.
The ball sailed in a beautiful arc
about eight stories high,
landed within a few feet of the 3rd grader
and took a big bounce off the hard playground dirt.
Pleased, I turned to enter the school building.

During this program, Josh Hanagarne talks about his memoir, The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family, an inspiring story of how a Mormon kid with Tourette’s found salvation in books and weight-lifting.

From the publisher:

"A Tribute to Chief Joseph (1840?—1904)

May 12, 2014
Duane Niatum
Klallam Tribe, Native American, poet

"God made me an Indian, but not a reservation Indian."  —Sitting Bull

Hin-Mah-Too-Yah-Lat-Ket: Thunder-rolling-in-the-mountains,
never reached with his people,
the Wal-lam-wat-kins, Canada's promised land.
Instead, the fugitive chief sits in a corner of the prison car
clicking its way to Oklahoma.
Chained to his warriors, he is like a featherless eagle
forced to look at a sky colorless as a square.

Adrianne Harun talks about missing girls and women along "The Highway of Tears"' in British Columbia. And explains why she chose the color white to represent evil in her novel A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain.

About the Book:

"Montana Night"

May 5, 2014

Montana Night. The velvet of the sky
Is powdered thick with silver dust. Below,
A realm of half-lights, where black shadows flow
To Stygian lakes, that spread and multiply.
Far to the east the Moccasins rise high
In jagged silhouette. Now, faint and low,
A night bird sounds his call. Soft Breezes blow,
Cool with the dampness of a stream hard by.
Dim, ghostly shapes of cattle grazing near
Drift steadily across the ray of light
From a lone cabin; and I think I hear
The barking of a dog. All things unite

David G. Gordon explains why we should be eating bugs and talks about some of the recipes in his book, The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook: 40 Ways to Cook Crickets, Grasshoppers, Ants, Water Bugs, Spiders, Centipedes, and Their Kin.

About the Book:

"April, Seattle to Missoula"

Apr 28, 2014

When the doe stepped out—
eyes tight on the head beams—
you said your one word
god before I jolted awake,
and then she was gone.
I remembered that Wisconsin night
when I was a child trying to sleep
in the back seat of the blue Rambler,
Father and Mother talking up front.
How white pine and deer glinted
in and out of light, but more
than this—the way
a moment can change you.

Steering With My Knees, poems by Paul Zarzyski
poetry, western author, bronc riding

During this program, Paul Zarzyski talks about and reads from his latest collections of poetry and prose, Steering With My Knees and 51: 30 Poems, 20 Lyrics, 1 Self-Interview, both published by Bangtail Press.

Including:

"Parowan Canyon"

Apr 21, 2014

When granite and sandstone begin to blur
and flow, the eye rests on cool white aspen.
Strange, their seeming transparency.
How as in a sudden flash one remembers
a forgotten name, so the recollection.
Aspen.

Walter Kirn talks about and reads from his memoir Blood Will Out: The True Story of Murder, a Mystery and a Masquerade.

About the Book:

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