Reflections West

Wednesday 3:00 PM

Reflections West is a weekly radio program that presents the thoughts of writers and scholars on the American West. These thinkers pair their own thoughts with a passage from literature and history.

LaVerne Harrell Clark, The University of Arizona Poetry Center

When writing about literature, teacher and author Robert Stubblefield sticks to the present tense, since "great literature never slides off into the past, but remains with us in an eternal present." Stubblefield's friend and colleague, author James Welch, creates a world in his historical novel Fools Crow "as clear and present as the gray vapor of our breath against the darkness."

During summer trips in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Tammy Elser, the daughter of an outfitter, learned to love camp coffee. Poet Luci Tapahonso's Navajo uncle drinks coffee from the red can, too:

Tom Mulvaney collection

Early in the twentieth century, long before Twitter, people sent snippets of news back and forth on penny postcards, sometimes transferring their own photos onto the front. In his book, Penny Postcards and Prairie Flowers, Philip Burgess has collected the postcards exchanged between his homesteading grandmother and great-aunt in Montana and their Norwegian immigrant family in Minnesota.

Joy Harjo

From her home in Pennsylvania, Toni Truesdale has never heard the call of the West. But her sister has. In spite of geographic separation, they re-create home around the kitchen table, wherever they are. Poet Joy Harjo's poem, "Perhaps the World Ends Here," sings of the kitchen table:

"Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

James Davenport grew up in Deer Lodge, MT, at a slower pace than his urban peers and without the surfeit of pop culture that informs their language. In his 1962 bestseller, Travels with Charlie, John Steinbeck observes that Montanans seem unaffected by television and the homogeneity overtaking other rural places:

Caroline Keys

Among the jobs Caroline Keys has held since moving to Montana: driving a tour boat on Flathead Lake.  Recently, she arranged a gig for her band on the boat she used to captain. She's reminded of a Salish story about ingenuity and re-arranged roles, collected by Bon I.

Paul Theobald admits he's tired of the pressure to remain rootless in order to "go far" in his teaching career. Wendell Berry names this cost of this pressure:

"That teaching is a long-term service, that a teacher's best work may be published in the children or grandchildren of his students, cannot be considered, for the modern educator, like his "practical" brethren in business and industry, will honor nothing that he cannot see."

Dale Gillespie grew up in Western Montana with a bias for mountains and water, but finally felt the beauty of the plains of Eastern Montana creep up on him as he watched a sunset Charlie Russell might have painted. In Big Rock Candy Mountain, Wallace Stegner reveals his own secret to "home:" 

Charles Finn

Each fall, black bears snap poet Alicia Gignoux's wild plums trees in half. One year, she salvaged a broken ten-foot tree, hauling it indoors for her Christmas tree. In an excerpt from his book, Wild Delicate Seconds, writer Charles Finn catches an October bear in the act of pilfering apples.

(Broadcast: Reflections West, 7/22/14 & 7/23/14)

Bradley Gordon

7/15/14 & 7/16/14: This week on Reflections West: In his youth, Toby Thompson stormed thirty saloons a day in search of the Great American Bar. In the dark of a recent December night, he experienced a revival at the New Atlas Bar in Columbus, MT. Poet Ken McCullough finds consolation at the New Atlas, too:

"Your conversation

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