Elk River Arts & Lectures will host former Montana Poet Laureate Henry Real Bird for a reading and a visit with local high school students on Thursday, March 13.
Raised on the Crow reservation by his grandparents, Real Bird’s primary language is Crow, which he believes gives form to his poetry. Real Bird is a rancher and educator who raises bucking horses and began writing poetry after an extended hospital stay in 1969. He was Montana’s Poet Laureate from 2009 to 2011.
Real Bird performed at the 2002 Olympic Arts Festival in Salt Lake City, and was honored with the Western Heritage Award for the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. He also performs regularly at the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko.
Upon being named Montana’s poet laureate, Real Bird saddled up a horse and took a 415-mile trip from Fort Berthold, North Dakota, to the Rocky Boy reservation in Montana, handing out books of poems along the way. People were “surprised and they just browsed through it right there, and they don’t know what to think,” he told Hal Canon of the Western Folk Life Center. “And so I’m gone by the next day, so I don’t know what they think… I just want them to enjoy the thought. Enjoy the thought and go for the ride into the feeling, whatever it is.”
Canon describes Real Bird’s work as being in the “greatest tradition of the beat poets. His work is an interesting melding of cowboy, horsemanship and Crow culture. There is no difference between his poetry and everyday life.”
Real Bird has authored a dozen children’s books, six anthologies, and five collections of poetry including his latest, Wolf Teeth.
Real Bird will visit with Park High School students during the day, then give a reading at the Blue Slipper Theatre, 113 E. Callender St., at 7 p.m. The reading is free, and will be followed by a reception and signing.
Elk River Arts & Lectures will host author Deanne Stillman for a reading and a visit with local high school students on Wednesday and Thursday, April 9 and 10.
Stillman is a widely published, critically acclaimed writer who sets her work in the psyche of the desolate, arid American West. Her book Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West, will be the subject of her Livingston talks. The LA Times included it among their best books of the year, it won the California Book Award silver medal for nonfiction, and was hailed in The Atlantic, The Economist, NPR, The Seattle Times, the Missoulian, and Indian Country Today, among many others.
In Mustang, Stillman says she examines the question of “Why are we, a cowboy nation, destroying the horse we rode in on?” Stillman’s work on the subject has led to the rescue of hundreds of wild horses headed to the slaughterhouse. Pam Houston, writing for the LA Times, says that “[l]ike the best nonfiction writers of our time (Jon Krakauer and Bruce Chatwin come to mind), Stillman’s prose is inviting, her voice authoritative and her vision imaginative and impressively broad…[Mustang] is an invaluable history.”
Stillman’s latest book is Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History. Based on a Rolling Stone piece, it won the 2013 Spur Award for best contemporary nonfiction, the LA Press Club Award, was named a Southwest Book of the Year, and praised in many publications. In addition, Stillman is the author of the cult classic Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines and the Mojave, which Hunter S. Thompson called “a strange and brilliant story by an important American writer.”
Stillman will visit with Park High School students on Wednesday, April 9, then give a public reading on Thursday, April 10 at Elk River Books’ new store, 120 N. Main St. (formerly Chatham Fine Art) at 7 p.m. The reading is free, and will be followed by a reception and signing.
Elk River Arts & Lectures will host investigative journalist Joshua Phillips for a reading from his book, None of Us Were Like This Before: American Soldiers and Torture, and a visit with local high school students on Thursday, May 1.
“Based on firsthand reporting from the Middle East, as well as interviews with soldiers, their families and friends, military officials, and the victims of torture, None of Us Were Like This Before reveals how soldiers, senior officials, and the U.S. public came to believe that torture was both effective and necessary,” Phillips writes. “The book illustrates that the damaging legacy of torture is not only borne by the detainees, but also by American soldiers and the country to which they’ve returned.”
The Military Review writes that Phillips’ book “will endure as war literature… It should also be essential reading for foreign policy makers, military historians, mental health professionals, military policemen, and interrogators.” The Foreign Policy blog The Best Defense named the books as one of the ten best on the subject of interrogation. Secretary of State John Kerry praises Phillips’ work as “a deeply personal story of a generation of American soldiers plunged into conflict after September 11. Joshua Phillips tells these brave Americans’ stories with compassion and vivid detail. None of Us Were Like This Before reminds us why, on some bedrock issues of American values, there should never be any room for compromise.”
Phillips has reported from Asia and the Middle East, with his work appearing in the Washington Post, Newsweek, Salon, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Nation, and the Atlanta Journal–Constitution, among other publications. His radio features have been broadcast on NPR and the BBC. In 2009, Phillips received the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award and the Newspaper Guild’s Heywood Broun Award of Substantial Distinction for his American Radio Works documentary “What Killed Sergeant Gray.”
Phillips will visit with Park High School students on Thursday, May 1, then give a public reading that evening at Elk River Books’ new location, 120 N. Main (formerly Chatham Fine Art) at 7 p.m. The reading is free, and will be followed by a reception and signing. The events are co-sponsored by the Murray Hotel and Elk River Books.
Elk River Arts & Lectures is a non-profit (501c3 status pending) organization that seeks to bring writers to Livingston for free public readings, and also to provide opportunities for those writers to interact with local public school students. Last fall, ERAL lecturers spoke to and worked with more than 250 Park High students.