poetry

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.

Brian D'Ambrosio, Huffington Post

5/13/14: This week on "Home Ground:" Merriam Webster's dictionary defines "poem" as "a composition in verse, especially a highly developed, imaginative one." Poetry enjoys great popularity in some cultures, but not in the U.S. Does this matter? Can something be done about it? Tami Haaland, raised on a farm on the Hi-Line, thinks it does and it can. She's Montana's poet laureate.

5/5/2014 - If you’d ask most people, they’d rather stay at home and watch a Seinfeld rerun than go to a poetry reading. Yet almost imperceptibly poetry enriches our lives and generates cultural growth and change. Think about it. Add up all the myriad poetry-related activities: readings, workshops, symposia, retreats, undergraduate and MFA programs at universities, books, zines, websites, spoken word recordings, then throw in lyric writing for theater and the multi-billion dollar music industry.

"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

"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, Josh Slotnick talks about the art of farming, pigs, and his new poetry collection, FarmHome. He also reads a few poems.

About the book:

David James Duncan called Slotnick "a Wendell-Berry-style 'mad farmer'" and said, "The bracing bittersweetness lacing this free-verse report from the frontlines of a post-corporate agricultural renaissance is all the sweetness we need. HomeFarm is one of the most responsible books of poetry I've ever read."

"A Cold Night"

Feb 24, 2014

Heavy with ancient memories of grace
and the ghosts of a thousand riders,
the solitary horse moves slowly down from the canyon
of deep winter shadows
towards a moon trapped in river ice.

Diamonds sift down from a cottonwood
onto quivering yellow-white haunches;
a cold night for crossing frozen water,
a cold night for an old dreaming gypsy horse
to step over the moon.

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Historian, teacher, and poet Joseph McGeshick talks about Montana’s Native American poets and about what’s happening on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. He also read a few of his poems.

"Still Alive"

Feb 10, 2014

Grain from farms along the Highline
fills the hold of Nordic Monarch.
Madrona sheds its bark like skin and
the surface of the sea is more
sensitive than skin. Somewhere
my noble fir breathes in
a million cells of air.

"Children of Snow"

Feb 3, 2014

                                       for my Children

I try to stay snow that my children wish
would come hard in Missoula, come hard
in me. There is fun in me like children
of fox and geese, sleds without tracks,
without worry. Yet this winter weighs heavy
as wet snow as I visit Welch and ramble
wishing for right time for ripe snow.

Sing a song for all children
who know that snow is holy,
falls holy on us, we, who should rejoice
in this time of work, of play, of holy
laughter that rings at crisp stars.

"Study for the Ridgeline Blue in Winter"

Jan 27, 2014

Throbs up from the darkening draws, eluding
dusk's clutch. Calls out and the owl
calls back, answering with her own ample koan.
When the world was flat we thought darkness
fell. Now we know it rises firelike from earth,
spindling up the oaks' trunks, engulfing
ridge and canopy.
                      The resulting smoke, then—
hue of a breath exhaled by a late-arriving disciple
come to examine the charred chaos of day
(such a staunch monk!) igniting itself again—
the odorless remains.
                       Then. The hanging

San Francisco Bay-area photographer Sue Reynolds and American Indian poet Victor Charlo talk about their book, Still Here: Not Living in Tipis.

In this first collaborative photo-poetry book between a white urban photographer and a reservation Indian, Sue Reynolds' images and Salish poet Victor Charlo's poems tell a story of resurrection in the face of long odds. The book includes forty-five color photos and five Salish poems. A percentage of sales goes to American Indian College Fund.

"Dreaming Winter"

Jan 20, 2014

Don't ask me if these knives are real.
I could paint a king or show a map
the way home—to go like this:
Wobble me back to a tiger's dream
a dream of knives and bones too common
to be exposed. My secrets are ignored.

Here comes the man I love. His coat is wet
and his face is falling like the leaves,
tobacco stains on his Polish teeth.
I could tell jokes about him—one up
for the man who brags a lot, laughs
a little and hangs his name on the nearest knob.
Don't ask me. I know it's only hunger.

"Light"

Jan 13, 2014

An artist places the intangible
              and tangible objects on the table together:
drift of diamond light from the Sky of the Mind
with the Asian poppy, the plate of wild seedling plums.

The direction is set, sun caught in eastern branches
when our empty hands have their other side of fullness.
              Still life: morning star. Moon.
Dawn. The sun (who is A Bird Singing in the Moonlight).

"January in Montana"

Dec 30, 2013

Light from the sky is precious like sips
of hot tea, a luxury, elite. On my drive
to work, I pass through wetlands filled
with Canadia geese and hawks.
Morning frost drapes the hood
of my car in wet velvet. Fog lifts from
ponds: a lace shawl hugging
curves of the water's edge.

Dead weeds in fields join mounds
of stone sugared under hoarfrost.
Snowflakes fluttering,
inexhaustible lovers waltzing.

"Solstice Poem 2005"

Dec 23, 2013

                                      -- for my friends, especially Ken Brewer

Today I glimpsed
a short-eared owl above
a rise just south
of Little Mountain.
Gone, when I looked again.

Of course this is metaphor
for the beauty and brevity
of life and for tragedy.
The owl will kill,
the owl will die.

At home, at dusk, in snow,
I hauled cut flood-wood
from the other side
of the river then
stacked logs by the willows

Even as bones they were sublime, the sky-
scraping brachyo- an brontosauri,
tree-boned haunches, handfuls of arm-length claws,
T. Rex with teeth uncountable as stars.
In my mind, they were fleshed, they ripped and gnawed.
Crossing Central Park at dusk, I'd see
the giants grazing still, the swaying treetops
hiding some great nibbling head, and hear
them in the ground-juddering thunder
as our subway shot like progress from the dark.
Then swallowed us, like some great whale or ark.

During this program TWQ producer Chérie Newman talks with Barbara Theroux, manager of Fact & Fiction Bookstore, and Zed about recently-published books written by authors from the western U.S. -- fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, for adults and children.

"The Snow In Wyoming"

Dec 9, 2013

...let's see what words you'll use to write the poems you write today, dreaming of Wyoming.
                       -
Miguel d'Ors

The dream will go wherever I go, luminous and dense
with its immovable rock ridge and water
cascading over red or yellow hillsides,
depending on the light,
                  while a buffalo's forehead
clears a path through the snow.

For the last several years, Robert Stubblefield has invited me to talk about The Write Question with students in one of the classes he teaches at the University of Montana. We talk about specific programs, which, if students have done their homework assignments, they've listened to. Then I answer questions about the process of reading, interviewing, and creating programs for radio and the Web.

Kate Lebo has created a delightful commonplace book that includes poetry, recipes, illustrations, and a twisty new form of folk wisdom. The conversation during this program includes the definition of a commonplace book, as well as perfect pie crust tips, pie quotes ("We ought to make the pie higher." - George W. Bush), and aphorisms.

About the book:

Giving Thanks, A Few Years Later

Nov 25, 2013

The sliding barn door slams against the far wall
winter light pours in like water through floodgates
dust floats in trapped sun

I reach up and grab the feet
of one more stunned and screaming
blue-green-brown Naragansett turkey
roosting in the rafters

Quick, he's upside down, wings spread out
heavy body bouncing
against the right hip of my spattered coveralls

100 turkeys, 8 friends, 3 days before Thanksgiving

"Pick Up"

Nov 18, 2013

What kind of finger to point? At which
map showing which right or southern turn? On
the newly poured shoulder, tar sucks at my shoe

I'm willing to walk out here alone, gravel grinding
my heel, gray day and the surface of the road
one continual oatmeal. No one thumbs

a ride on the frontage road but me
so no one stops but you. Stories of fingers
in the psychopath's pocket, suspicion float back

and forth in our first stumbling exchange.
You need me for company. I settle grateful.
Highway lengthens toward silence, hazard lights

"Complexity"

Nov 4, 2013

What didn't work the first time
won't work the tenth. This is true
of everything structured by desire
which continues to beat against walls
as if they can dissolve with repetition.

This is a problem in all relationships
that begin in image and end in dreams
that nag though night with what
never was and could not be.
In between these stages comes touch.

"River"

Oct 28, 2013

Do not murder the man whose
grandfather stole land from
your grandfather. Do not make
your grandchildren, who will
love you no matter what, decide
whether or not to tell the truth or
live like hollow stems.

Don't let rage become a flash
flood, or a lightning bolt that
strikes you again and again.

Would you save every tissue you
blew snot into? No, we cannot
save everything.

Maybe we can't save anything
or anybody except ourselves.

"We Are the Spirits of These Bones"

Oct 21, 2013

We have been with these bones
for a long time
and we are beginning to feel
a whole lot better now
that these bones are back among the Cheyenne people on their Reservation.

But we are troubled for another reason.
We want to travel on
now that these bones are safely buried.
They have now been properly put to rest.

"Magic Fox"

Oct 7, 2013

They shook the green leaves down,
those men that rattled
in their sleep. Truth became
a nightmare to their fox.
He turned their horses into fish,
or was it horses strung
like fish, or fish like fish
hung naked in the wind?

Stars fell upon their catch.
A girl, not yet twenty-four
but blonde as morning birds, began
a dance that drew the men in
green around her skirts.
In dust her magic jangled memories
of dawn, till fox and grief
turned nightmare in their sleep.

"Storm Pattern"

Sep 30, 2013

On my living room wall hangs a Navajo rug
handwoven by Virginia Yazzie. A Storm Pattern
with a black and white border, through which
the spirit line passes, a design like silhouettes

of mesas on the Colorado Plateau. Within the border
it's red, Ganado red, with black and white
figures, the sacred water bugs, the mountains
and the clouds, and the intersecting lightning bolts

"Sometimes Odowan"

Sep 23, 2013
Dragonfly Weather, poems by Lois Red Elk
Lost Horse Press

Sometimes when I sleep,
I hear buffalo coming,
Sometimes when I sleep,
Tatanka sings me songs.
Hey yo hey yaaaaah.

Sometimes when I dream,
I see dragonflies flying.
Sometimes when I dream,
Tusweca sings me songs.
Hey ya hey yaaaah.

Sometimes when I wake,
I feel the earth moving.
Sometimes when I wake,
Maka Unci sings me songs.
Hey ya hey yaaaaah.

How to Write the Great American Indian Novel

Sep 9, 2013

All of the Indians must have tragic features: tragic noses, eyes, and arms.
Their hands and fingers must be tragic when they reach for tragic food.

The hero must be a half-breed, half white and half Indian, preferably
from a horse culture. He should often weep alone. That is mandatory.

If the hero is an Indian woman, she is beautiful. She must be slender
and in love with a white man. But if she loves an Indian man

then he must be a half-breed, preferably from a horse culture.

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