is available to give readings from his poetry and prose, presentations
on the progress of the Vagabond project; lectures/seminars on "The
Idea of the Local," "Thinking and Writing About Place,"
and "Getting People to Tell Their Stories: The Gentle Art of the
Interview;" and workshops on keeping a writer's journal and on
the writing of poetry, creative nonfiction, memoir, family history,
and local history. Contact Montag at:
~ Newly Added ~
has been used as a term of disparagement. It has been used to mean
second-rate, primitive, not good enough to run with the big dogs,
not as important or urgent or central as that which happens elsewhere.
Yet Shakespeare was local, Mark Twain was. Our good Southern writers.
Henry David Thoreau could not be more local. We've simply moved such
folks into a wider realm and appreciate them for other qualities.
does "local" mean? In the first sense, simply "relating
to place." In the second, "characteristic of or confined
to a particular place." And, in the third instance, "restricted,
narrow, confined." Here is where the disparagement arises, perhaps;
yet here, too, maybe, is where the local ought to be celebrated: where
it is most clearly restricted and confined as opposed to leveled or
Available as a 60, 90, or 120 minute lecture, reading, and discussion.
Place. We all talk about it. We walk our familiar haunts and think we know them, yet sometimes we miss the obvious around us. Sometimes particular places become "holy" for us, and we form special connections to them. Sometimes the lay of the land and the drive of natural processes attracts us. We get interested in local history, or the family's history - how do we look at these in terms of place. What is the local, why should it be celebrated? What are the essential images that rise out of the places in our lives? What are the "bio-regional" questions that will allow you to look at your place in new ways? These questions lead into a discussion of thinking and writing about place that will help you to see "the ghosts on the landscape" and to establish a program for writing about your own place. This presentation can be configured as a hands-on workshop, if desired.
Available as a 60 or 90 minute lecture and discussion or as a 2-hour to 4-hour hands-on seminar.
Everyone has a story, it has been said; yet not everyone is going to write la memoir. That leaves a lot of stories for the poets and the feature writers to tell, for the columnists and the practitioners of creative nonfiction. How do you establish trust and help people feel comfortable telling you their stories? What should you do before the interview ever starts, what is the plan? How do you elicit the details that let your narrative pulse with life? What kinds of questions are most effective in provoking stories? How do you record the information you're getting for maximum usefulness? How much is the interviewer part of the story he or she is telling? How do you handle preparation for book-length life stories? Such questions as these will serve as starting points for a discussion of the gentle art of the interview. This presentation can be configured as a hands-on workshop, if desired.
Available as a 60 or 90 minute lecture
and discussion or as a 2-hour to 4-hour hands-on seminar.
The project is "Vagabond in the Middle: An Expedition Into the Heart of the Middle West." It is an exploration of what makes us middle western. My presentation outlines the genesis of the idea, summarizes my intent, defines the land area of middle west (at least to my satisfaction), and discusses my methods of "poking about" to get at the true stories of our lives here and at the characteristics that mark us. I also share the results of my investigation, including selections from my Vagabond journals and excerpts from interviews I've conducted in my focus communities.
Available as a lecture of 15-90 minutes, followed
by questions & answers.
A WRITER'S JOURNAL
We write because we can't
not-write. But what do we write when we're not working on a "project?"
Many writers keep "a writer's journal," which serves at
once as a refuge, practice session, and test of new possibilities.
A wide range of perspectives is offered - 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; how to get started keeping a journal,
how to mine the treasures that accumulate.
Poetry is more about the way a life is lived than about words put on the page: it is about a way of seeing and being in the world, and the bringing back of what's been found into the realm of language. Seeing metaphor is one of the poet's primary tasks; all figurative language, image, measure and line and line break, voice and tone, and persona, all these are elements in the surprise and wonder that make the poem's miracle.
essay is poetry's sister and it should swing and hump the way good
poetry does, and good fiction, all the while telling the true stories
of our lives. In creative nonfiction, the tools of literature, of
poetry and fiction and drama, are engaged for the telling. True narrative
does not have to plod. There are only five kinds of order, do you
know what they are?
Memoir lays out the theme of the life, not the whole life itself, and tells only the events that illustrate the arc of the life's meaning. Good memoir rises to art: the telling becomes not so much the story of any one person's life so much as the story of an Any-man, an Every-woman. That is why we care: because we see in your life that "this could be me." Good memoir appropriates all the tools of creative nonfiction for the telling.
YOUR FAMILY HISTORY
history should read like good memoir: what is the arc of the family's
meaning, what is the greater story, what is the universal truth here.
These must be teased out; we have to resist the temptation to tell everything
we know simply because we know it. Family history appropriates all the
tools of creative nonfiction for the telling.
WRITING LOCAL HISTORY
local history! it is first of all story, it should be told as story,
should appropriate all the tools of creative nonfiction, should find
the themes and the arcs of meaning that illuminate our existence; instead
it often stumbles and falls over lists of names, a run of dates, a stash
of miscellaneous detail, as if these are all that's important. Good
local history rises to literature if we let it, if we make it do what
we believe poets ultimately contribute more of worth to a society's
cultural life than does Hollywood, we understand that we cannot be
paid what they get paid in Hollywood. Poets are professionals, however,
and should be paid as fairly as possible for their work.