Iowa-born poet and essayist Tom Montag will be at the Oskaloosa Public
Library, 301 So. Market St., Oskaloosa, on March 25 and March 26 to
read from and speak about his writing and to teach a class on "Keeping
a Writer's Journal." Montag is best known for Curlew:Home, his
memoir of growing up during the 1950s on a farm a mile south and a quarter
mile west of Curlew, Iowa. Both presentations are free and open to the
From 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Monday, March 25, 2003, Montag will read from
and discuss Curlew:Home, as well as his book of essays about writing
and being a writer, Kissing Poetry's Sister, and his several books of
poems. He will also talk about his current book project, Vagabond In
the Middle, a five-year undertaking that attempts to understand what
it is that makes us middle western.
From 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26, 2003, Montag will teach a
class on keeping a writer's journal. "We write because we can't
not-write," Montag says, "but what do we write when we're
not working on a project? Many writers keep 'a writer's journal,' which
serves as a refuge, a practice session, and a test of new possibilities."
Montag will offer a range of perspectives on the writer's journal, from
those who worry that keeping a journal will reduce the time and energy
available for their "real" work to those who can't imagine
living without their notebook as a constant companion. He will offer
insights on how to get started keeping a journal, how to record rich
and varied information, and how to mine the treasures that accumulate.
Curlew:Home presents vivid prose about Montag's farm childhood during
the 1950s, interspersed with the journal of a trip he made back to his
hometown in October, 2000. Montag believes that, while Curlew:Home tells
his story and that of his family, it also represents many other middle
western farm people who have no one to speak for them. Several readers
have told the author: "This could be the story of my life."
Columnist Myram Tunnicliff wrote in the Emmetsburg Democrat that Curlew:Home
should speak to every person "for whom the land holds meaning."
It is a tribute "to the values of the entire middle west,"
Donna Seaman at Booklist magazine called Curlew:Home a "companionable
and reverent memoir" and said "Montag's prose is thoughtful
and unhurried, opening out into moments of beauty and wry humor, echoing
in its quiet rhythms and low-key observations the gentle roll of the
rich midwestern landscape he loves.... He celebrates the country's most
overlooked and underestimated region and movingly portrays his hardworking
and loving parents."
The popular public radio show Prairie Home Companion has kept a selection
from Curlew:Home on its web site in the "Stories for Home"
feature at www.prairiehome.org for the past year and a half.
Last October Montag published his collection of essays about writing
and being a writer, Kissing Poetry's Sister. Jessica Powers at newpages.com
wrote of this newest book: "Tom Montag has a gentle style; he writes
with depth-thought and emotion are carefully balanced and you get the
sense as you read this that here is a wise man-not a perfect man, but
a good man-and he is letting us into his house and his life for a few
moments each day so we can experience the richness that is his.... I
look forward to reading whatever Montag writes in the future."
The editor of Creativity Connection, Marshall Cook, has called Montag's
essays "a marvelous book of prose."
Montag is the author of more than twenty other books and chapbooks including
a big collection of his earlier poems, Middle Ground, and more recently
several selections from his "Ben Zen" poems, including one
titled The Ox of Paradox, another called The More I Know. Now he is
readying The Big Book of Ben Zen for publication and is at work on another
collection called Plain Poems: A Fairwater Daybook. Montag's poem "Lecturing
My Daughter in Her First Fall Rain" is one of 60 works by Wisconsin
writers permanently incorporated into the design of the Midwest Express
Convention Center in Milwaukee.
Montag has published essays on a wide array of topics in such magazines
as The Baybury Review, Bellowing Ark, Cream City Review, Flyway, The
Heartlands Today, The Journal of Unconventional History, The Midday
Moon, New Stone Circle, North Dakota Quarterly, Northeast, and Rosebud.
Montag recently retired from a career in the printing industry to devote
himself full time to his writing. He and Mary, his wife of more than
30 years, live in Fairwater, Wisconsin. The couple has two grown daughters,
Jenifer and Jessica. The web site for Montag's "Vagabond"
project can be found at: www.wlhn.org/vagabond.
Copies of Montag's books will be for sale after both his presentations
at the Oskaloosa Public Library.