To celebrate National Poetry Month, Wisconsin poet and essayist, Tom
Montag, will be at the Waupaca Area Public Library, 107 S. Main Street,
at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 15, 2004, to read from and talk about
Montag's recent books include the just published Big Book of Ben
Zen (MWPH Press, 2004), which collects all of the "Ben Zen"
poems that he wishes to preserve; The Sweet Bite of Morning (Juniper
Press, 2003), a selection of nineteen entries from his series "Plain
Poems: A Fairwater Daybook;" Curlew:Home (Midday Moon Books,
2001), his memoir of growing up on an Iowa farm during the 1950s; and
Kissing Poetry's Sister (Joint Venture, 2002), essays about writing
and being a writer.
Denise Hill at newpages.com said of The Sweet Bite of Morning:
"I was able to visualize a literal blossoming, as the poems moved
from observations of snow shifting across roadways and fields, to the
warmth of spring, the emergence of new life, and on to the intense clear
blue sky heat of summer. Montag provides an incredible journey across
time and season that any true Midwesterner can actually feel in their
skin.... Montag's strength in this work is his brevity and concise use
of language, with a special ability to create strong and lasting images
through his choice of details."
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," she said.
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."
For the past year and a half, 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
In October 2002 Montag published his collection of essays about writing
and being a writer, Kissing Poetry's Sister. Jessica Powers at
newpages.com wrote of this 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 newest 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 (MWPH, 1982).
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 read from and talked about his work on the Wisconsin Public
Radio programs "Higher Ground" and "Hotel Milwaukee."
Montag is currently at work on a prose project he calls "Vagabond
In the Middle: An Expedition Into the Heart of Middle West." In
his "Statement of Intent" for that project, Montag defines
the scope of the effort this way: "Who are we and what are the
middle western emblems common across our area, I want to ask. Landscape,
environment, people, and history all factor into the definition of the
middle west, all shape what we've become. In coming to understanding,
I expect to mix interview and personal experience, history and geology,
essay and journal entry and meditation. I'll walk, I'll drive, I'll
listen, I'll read, I'll listen some more, I'll watch. Always I will
be looking for the true stories that tell us what is it that makes us
who we are. I will burrow into the life of each community, to find the
stuff it is made of; I will record that, then compare the communities
to determine what they hold in common, what they keep as difference.
There will necessarily be a peeling back of the surface sheen of the
landscape to see what pulses beneath, to understand the land not in
some generic, historical sense, but in terms of particular lives lived
here. The truly local: these lives, in their times, in these places."
The focus communities for the Vagabond project are: Smith Center, Kansas;
West Point, Nebraska; Redfield, South Dakota; Rugby, North Dakota; Alexandria,
Minnesota; Emmetsburg, Iowa; Maysville, Missouri; Vandalia, Illinois;
Ripon, Wisconsin; L'Anse, Michigan; Fowler, Indiana; and Eaton, Ohio.
In January of this year, Montag started visiting these communities and
he reports on the progress of his project in an irregular newsletter
as well as on his web site at: www.wlhn.org/vagabond .
Montag has recently published his essays and poetry in such magazines
as The Baybury Review, Bellowing Ark, Briar Cliff Review, The California
Quarterly, Cream City Review, Flyway, The Heartlands Today, Hummingbird,
The Journal of Unconventional History, The Midday Moon, New Stone Circle,
North Dakota Quarterly, Northeast, Poetry Motel, RiverSedge, riverwind,
Rosebud, Wallpaper, and Wisconsin Poets' Calendar.
In October 2002, Montag 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.
Copies of Montag's books will be for sale after his presentation and
he will be available to sign books for those who wish.