I have always wanted to go to the Festival of the Book. Here is where literary titans of the Pacific Northwest convene in the Paris of Montana to share their work and pearls of wisdom with other writers and readers. I was honored to be included with the likes of William Kittredge, Rick DeMarinis, Kevin Canty, Frances McCue, and the hot young writer, Benjamin Percy to name a few. It was like a writerly Woodstock.
My fellow panelists sign books after our discussion about writing memoir.
L to R: Reiko Rizzuto (Hiroshima in the Morning), Ruth McLaughlin (Bound Like Grass), me, Buzzy Jackson (Shaking the Family Tree)
Special thanks to Judy Klein, Kim Anderson and the folks at Humanities Montana for all their hard work making Festival of the Book the amazing event that it is!
My favorite part of the weekend, however, was in the bar at the Holiday Inn where a room full of people listened to the poetry by the late great Richard Hugo, in “karaoke” format. You could have heard a pin drop, but for the weeping. Where else in the world but Missoula! Here are some inspiring videos made by English students at the University of Montana in honor of Hugo. Just beautiful.
The last one is a wonderful Richard Hugo pilgrimage staring Annick Smith and Bill Kittredge– pure joy to watch.
Degrees Of Gray In Philipsburg by Richard Hugo
You might come here Sunday on a whim.
Say your life broke down. The last good kiss
you had was years ago. You walk these streets
laid out by the insane, past hotels
that didn’t last, bars that did, the tortured try
of local drivers to accelerate their lives.
Only churches are kept up. The jail
turned 70 this year. The only prisoner
is always in, not knowing what he’s done.
The principal supporting business now
is rage. Hatred of the various grays
the mountain sends, hatred of the mill,
The Silver Bill repeal, the best liked girls
who leave each year for Butte. One good
restaurant and bars can’t wipe the boredom out.
The 1907 boom, eight going silver mines,
a dance floor built on springs–
all memory resolves itself in gaze,
in panoramic green you know the cattle eat
or two stacks high above the town,
two dead kilns, the huge mill in collapse
for fifty years that won’t fall finally down.
Isn’t this your life? That ancient kiss
still burning out your eyes? Isn’t this defeat
so accurate, the church bell simply seems
a pure announcement: ring and no one comes?
Don’t empty houses ring? Are magnesium
and scorn sufficient to support a town,
not just Philipsburg, but towns
of towering blondes, good jazz and booze
the world will never let you have
until the town you came from dies inside?
Say no to yourself. The old man, twenty
when the jail was built, still laughs
although his lips collapse. Someday soon,
he says, I’ll go to sleep and not wake up.
You tell him no. You’re talking to yourself.
The car that brought you here still runs.
The money you buy lunch with,
no matter where it’s mined, is silver
and the girl who serves your food
is slender and her red hair lights the wall.