Nancy Rose

By Marie F. Martin

Poet Nancy Rose visited the February meeting of Montana Women Writers and read three of her poems to our gathering. I enjoyed her haunting cadence and choice of words so much I asked Nancy if I could share one of her poems on  our blog.  She kindly agreed. but then I had a terrible dilemma. Oh my, which one do I choose? I opened her book and began  reading.  This is the one I finally chose after a nice time in a comfy chair dwelling on her words.

Night Music
Hey, firelight music
Your playful beat says get up and dance
Move my body so freely
Every creak and groan is gone
Drum vibrations moving through me
Taking me out of my body
Into a wide night sky.

I’ve been wanting all summer
To climb into the Big Dipper
And swim all night in the star pool
Backstroking with the northern lights
Dancing overhead

I would come back
Resplendent in moonlight
Breathing deeply
Trailing stars
Oh, yes

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This is the start of her author blurb on the back cover. Nancy Rose is a rare flower of the Kentucky hills.

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Nancy now makes Montana her home. Her website is www.NancyRoseMT.com

 

(Originally published March 14, 2016)

 

 

 

 

My Grandfather’s Poem

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By Marie F. Martin

Some time in the middle 1930s, my grandfather Yeats wrote the following poem.  He homesteaded a Montana flatland spread just north of Gilford, near a town named Goldstone.  In the evenings after chores, he wrote the rhythms that ran through his mind while doing endless chores in his Red Chief tablet .  The ranch is gone, the town is gone but the poems live on.  I have several newspaper clippings from the Havre newspaper and tried to scan different ones, but the letters were too small to read.  I chose this poem to share because it shows determination.  My heritage goes deep into Montana soil, but also the desire to put words on paper was passed along.  In the photo is my father on the tractor and my grandfather on the combine.  This is before  Mom and Dad were married.  Yep, she married the hired hand.

Wheat for 40 cents

By William Yeats in the 1930s

Oh, please tell me how the farmers in Montana
Can ever pay their taxes and the Rents,
And keep their poor old trucks and tractors running,
When they have to sell their wheat for forty cents?
For at that price you cannot make expenses,
And keep your equipment up in shape,

When you know its worth at least six-bits to raise it,
You can’t help that you’re Just an ape.
Now the tractor needs a set of sleeves and pistons.
For the way it is pumping oil near breaks my heart.
And I’ve cranked and cracked, till my poor back is broken,
Trying to get that cussed thing to start.

The timing gears are rattling and banging.
The old crankshaft is getting mighty flat,
The radiator leaks like a spraying fountain
And nothing that I do seems to help that.
Twas many moons ago it shed the skidrims,
The broken worn out lugs have lost their grip.

And every time the plow hooks on a boulder,
The tractor stands still while the clutch does slip.
And the old truck isn’t faring any better.
To tell the truth, its nothing but a wreck.
And some day, crossing the O’brien coulee,
I’ll have to spill and break my dog gone neck.

When in the rattletrap I go ariding,
I thank the Lord, my heart is good and stout
As in the cab I sit with nerves aquiver
A listening for the rear tires to blow out.
Yes, it sure is great to be an honest farmer
A horny-handed tiller of the soil,

But right now, I’d pass for a first class scare-crow,
All smeared from head to toe with grease and oil.
Didn’t dare to go to church on Easter,
For through my shoes the folks could see my toes.
Indeed there’s very little joy in living,
When you’re wearing gunny sacks for underclothes.

They say, of everything there is surplus,
Just what to do with it nobody knows.
Now really, if there’s such an awful surplus,
Why can’t I have a suit of Sunday Clothes.
Oh, I’m sure if people only had the money,
There’d be an awful jam in every store.

They’d soon clean up that over-rated surplus,
And have them jumping round, a rustling more.

(Originially published October 16, 2013)

HAIKU TO YOU TOO!

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Last October, I was invited to my first Montana Women Writers meeting in Kalispell by Betty Kuffel. The speaker would be talking about Flash Fiction, so Betty’s email suggested we “…bring a piece of flash fiction you’d like to share or Haiku, or a few pages of manuscript for peer input.” 

Haiku? The idea of writing a very short structured poem grabbed my attention. Since I had never written one before, it didn’t need to be perfect, or even good; it just needed to be a haiku: 

My First Haiku (10/31/19):

(5) Fawn strolls through snowy yard

(7) as kids dress up as animals. 

(5) Whitefish Halloween!

In haiku, less is literally more. The 5-7-5 indicates the number of syllables allowed for each line. Every word must be carefully chosen to fit the 17-syllable 3-line form. 

I quickly realized writing haikus is excellent training for all types of writing. As a book editor and screenwriting coach, I saw how haiku practice would improve my clients’ writing skills as well as mine – and it was fun!

When I researched “how to write haiku,” I discovered other syllable-dependent poetic structures like sestina, villanelle, dodoitsu and paradelle. Some of these use repeating words or rhythms. But haiku is the shortest and simplest form to learn. 

Here’s a haiku I recently wrote to remind me how to write one:

Five syllables plus

seven and five more create

a haiku for you!

Haiku began as a Japanese poetic form honoring nature and the world around us. Some people write haikus as a diary of their daily experiences, like author Jack Keroac. Others create fanciful, humorous or literary haikus. Check out “Suburban Haiku” by Peyton Price (www.suburbanhaiku.com) or “Haiku U “(100 great books in 17 syllables) by David M. Bader.

To begin writing your own haiku, use the basic 5-7-5 syllable structure. I find a starting point within the three lines, then work forward or backward from there. Once my theme and rhythm are clear, refining the words and sometimes shuffling the top and bottom lines follows. 

For practice, you can find Haiku sites and Facebook groups online:

At the Global Haiku Project (www.haiku.baronfig.com), you can add to or finish a three-author haiku.

For help going haiku, try Haiku Generator (www.poem-generator.org.uk/haiku/).

Facebook’s Haiku for a Global Pandemic group inspired my first Covid-19 haiku:

Despite Covid, how

can we all move through this day?

One breath at a time…

(8/4/20)

If you’re inspired to write your first haiku (or your hundredth), I’d love to read it. Email me at LiteraSee@gmail.com.

By Barbara Schiffman

Barbara will be presenting Haiku to You, Too! at our Zoom Montana Women Writers meeting September 24th for details how to join in the discussion contact her at the email address above.

Trilliums for Mother’s Day

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By Brenda Olmsted

Over thirty years ago, I received my first trillium for Mother’s Day. We moved into our house outside of Bigfork the winter of 1983. The yard was, as yet, undeveloped and the surrounding woods and overgrown natural vegetation was buried under deep snow.

As soon as the snow had melted enough for us to walk through the tangle of undergrowth, I took my daughter and son out to explore our new home. We climbed over downed lodge pole and birch trees, skirted prickly woods’ rose shrubs and stomped through barely-visible wild strawberry plants until we were ready to return inside. Several weeks passed and we ventured out as often as the weather would permit.

One day my daughter found a white flower under a fallen tree. The delicate petals caught her attention in the dark undergrowth where so little sun penetrated the canopy of tall pines. She picked the flower and carried it into the house where we placed it in a glass of water. It sat on the window sill above the kitchen sink for days, slowly dying. Later, I searched books with the flower in hand and discovered its name: trillium grandiflorum, white trillium.  trillium

The following year, when the sun penetrated the trees and warmed the ground, the trilliums emerged and we again placed several in a glass of water on the windowsill. That Mother’s Day, after returning home from church, my two oldest children disappeared outside with their baby sister toddling behind them. Within a few minutes they returned, each holding a trillium in their little hand. “Happy Mother’s Day,” they chimed together.

A tradition was born. From then on, every Mother’s Day,  there was a race to see who could find the first flower. In those early years, there was always a glass or two full of trilliums sitting on the window sill each spring, some bright and cheerful, some already withered. As the years passed, we learned more of their true nature. These spring flowers, too delicate for the summer heat, grew in the rich loam of the forest where a shaft of sunlight penetrated to warm their roots. We learned to pick only the flower, leaving the leaves intact on the plant so more would grow the following year. Even so, as the children grew and our yard became more cultivated, the fewer and fewer we saw of the trilliums. Still, I received a trillium every year on Mother’s Day.

Then, we moved into Kalispell, Montana where there are no trilliums poking out in a patch of sun. For several years the tradition was lost, until one Mother’s Day, my daughter gave me a flat box wrapped in white and green tissue paper. When I opened it, there was a watercolor of trilliums, which she had painted during her first watercolor class.

The picture hangs in a place of honor in our living room; a reminder of those races, little  hands holding trilliums and a chorus, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

    She Said
She never said the morning was old,
or that the sunrise went unseen.
What she said was, the way the stars shone
reminded her that the sky was an object
of intense beauty—burning away the dew,
and the reason she enjoyed the sunset
was for the splendor of the dross. 

She never said the morning was old.
What she said was, to milk the sky of all it has to say
would be impossible, but the stories it could tell!
Dropping hints with shooting stars, aurora borealis
and the moon’s globe always half hidden,
reflecting earth’s star—the great shine,
sending rays of hope, and to discover for what
purpose the planets are aligned.

She never said the morning was old.
What she said was, the earth has its own secrets:

the sight of green across a rain-soaked field,
overripe fruit dropping to the garden floor,
the quickening of a hummingbird’s wings,
magnetic forces underfoot and those places
where laughter can be heard; and still, none so beautiful
as a child’s hand reaching upward.

Brenda Olmsted grew up surrounded by dinosaur bones in the Badlands of Eastern Montana. She skipped rocks, searched for fishing lures and slept by campfires along the Yellowstone River where fishing for paddlefish is a seasonal sport. She moved to Bigfork, Montana in 1978, where she raised her family before turning her attention to writing. Sometimes she calls herself a poet. She enjoys reading, spending time with her family and traveling the roads throughout Montana with her amateur-photographer husband, Don.

Arbor Day Connections

By Karen Wills

Climate change thrusts us into a heightened awareness of nature. Oceans, lakes, meadows and trees are the living matrix of which we are a part.  Trees in particular have figured in much fiction and nonfiction of late. Of course, poets have long written about and concerned themselves with trees. American poet Robinson Jeffers planted about 2,000 seedlings on his sea cliff property near Carmel, California in the first half of the 1900s.

There is a kinship of us humans to trees. Tree deprivation became as real for me when we lived on the Alaskan tundra as it was for settlers living on the virgin prairies of America. I loved the big, empty tundra with its miles of tiny wild cotton, but trees have always meant shelter, the promise of something to lean against, and shade in the glare of summer. I missed them.

In a recent blog on my website I quoted from Joanna L. Stratton’s, Pioneer Women, which tells of a woman whose husband took her along on a journey to bring home wood. She’d not seen a tree for two years. “…when they arrived at Little River, she put her arms around a tree and hugged it until she was hysterical.”

That reminded me of when we lived on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. We explored the countryside, often peering into abandoned settlers’ houses. One was a stone cottage with a small grotto beside it sheltered by trees. The woman who pioneered there had walked nearly ½ mile each way every day carrying buckets of water to keep her seedlings growing. They flourished. She is gone, but her trees remain, providing homes for birds, being natural wind instruments, and soothing the prairie with their sighing leaves and branches.

An insightful novel about those who plant, nurture, and preserve not just trees, but whole forests, is The Overstory by Richard Powers–winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. One of its most interesting characters is a Vietnam veteran who finds his purpose in life replanting clear-cut, logged-out areas for a living. But he learns that replanting rows of trees earns his corporate employer permission to clear cut more and more forests at a greater profit. That knowledge drives the veteran to desperate, reckless acts.

Another character in The Overstory is Patricia Westerford who devotes her academic and personal life to the study of forests. According to Patricia, everything that happens in nature happens for a purpose. “The environment is alive—a fluid, changing web of purposeful lives dependent on each other.” She also concludes, “We’ve been shaped by forests for longer than we’ve been homo sapiens.”

To return to Jeffers, in his poem “Ghost” he imagines himself as a spirit revisiting the new owner of his former property.  He has the following exchange with the startled man:

“I see you have played hell
With the trees that I planted.” “There has to be room for people,” he
answers. “My God,” he says, “
That still!”

This Arbor Day, enjoy the forests if you can, plant a tree if you’re able, and take a deep breath. Feel your connection to the earth of which you are still a part.