The Write Question

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

"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:

Flood Song

Apr 14, 2014

He wanted to hold back gas-soaked doves with a questioning glance;
he wanted the clock to tick, downwind from this gavel and pew,
from this leash, bucket, drainpipe, and mildewed cracker,
from the mind's muddy swan served on a platter with lemon rids,
from spiders scurrying over its bone-polished surface,
from crosshatches punched into its shredded time card,
from the desert near the tree line where the molting must have begun,
where crushed bodies heave warm, jellylife,
in the thicket at the foot of the wandering,

During this program, Wyoming author Craig Johnson talks about and reads from A Serpent's Tooth, the ninth book in his Walt Longmire Mystery series, which has been adapted for TV: Longmire on the Arts & Entertainment channel.

BOOK SYNOPSIS

"The Moment"

Apr 7, 2014

In those days, Betty Crocker
always called for sifted flour, and so
in homes across America, women sifted.
When my mother's mother turned
the wobbly red knob, hulls and stones
jumped in the wire basket,
but by my mother's time
the flour was fine—
now women sifted to achieve
precision, purity, perfection.
It made the white flour whiter.
Then flour came in bags,
already sifted, and women stopped
making their own cakes and bread,
and didn't have time anyway
for sifting. But for a flicker

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

About the book:

"Spring"

Mar 31, 2014

Five first crocuses burst into bird-brilliant bloom
and suddenly everything flies: behind a car
ascraps of paper rise, two from a flock, startled dumb.
Some lives begin in abstraction; others end there.
If I find the child's fist this universe bloomed from
I will close it again as my own five fingers,
say worlds as one sentence, fit them into a name
for gold overwhelming finches, feather by feather.
With leaves returned, we still hear birds bu see them now
only when they fly. It's hard to see anything,

Kim Fu talks about and reads from her debut novel, For Today I Am A Boy.

About the book:

Peter Huang and his sisters—elegant Adele, shrewd Helen, and Bonnie the bon vivant— grow up in a house of many secrets, then escape the confines of small-town Ontario and spread from Montreal to California to Berlin. Peter’s own journey is obstructed by playground bullies, masochistic lovers, Christian ex-gays, and the ever-present shadow of his Chinese father.

"Birds of a Feather"

Mar 24, 2014

Each spring the hummingbirds hover
over the same place on my patio
Where twenty-four years ago hung
a red plastic feeder filled with sugar water

Four or five fowl generations later
through some unfathomable feat
these offspring flutter wings over
empty air in worship of this sacred spot

And I wonder if my great grandparents
fed off the magnificence of the Rio Grande
Where it divides New Mexican high desert
Blood of Christ Mountains on one side
and burnt amber sunset on the other

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:

"Emerald"

Mar 17, 2014

Unbidden, a green memory
sprang forth, so overwhelming
in its clarity, it leapt across
three quarters of a century:
I stood before a counter-top
of jewelry, eye height, beside
my father who had brought me to
that "five and dime" store in the Bronx.
          Among the many rings displayed,
one gleaming emerald shone there
surpassing all the rest, and, firmly set
within a silver band, it was on sale
just for one dollar that my father
told the saleslady I'd saved.
          I bought the ring to give my mother

During this program Julie Cajune — an American Indian storyteller, educator, and actress — talks about writing the stories in her one-woman play titled “Belief.” She also describes the process of collaborating with writer and poet Jennifer Finley and stage director Linda Grinde

"Belief" is a multidimensional performance, a unique mixture of interconnected Salish women’s stories, poetry, and live music.

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

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