Thursday, April 8, 2010

Poet was once an interpretive guide in Wyoming's Big Horn Mountains

In celebration of National Poetry Month -- this comes from New West:

Poet William Notter grew up on the plains of northeastern Colorado, and now lives in Richmond, Virginia. He's lived in a variety of places, teaching writing at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Notter spent three summers as an interpretive guide in Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest, which inspired his poem “Morning News in the Big Horn Mountains.” Notter’s poems appear widely and he has received many honors for his work, including the Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize for More Space Than Anyone Can Stand (Texas Review Press, 2002), and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Last year Notter published his poetry collection Holding Everything Down (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009), which won the 2008 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Below is a poem from that book, featured on Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac.”

Morning News in the Big Horn Mountains

The latest movie star is drunk just out of rehab,
two or three cities had extraordinary killings,
and expensive homes are sliding off the hills
or burning again. There’s an energy crisis on,
and peace in the Middle East is close as ever.
In Wyoming, just below timberline,
meteors and lightning storms
keep us entertained at night. Last week,
a squirrel wrecked the mountain bluebirds’ nest.
I swatted handfuls of moths in the cabin
and set them on a stump each day,
but the birds would not come back to feed.
It snowed last in June, four inches
the day before the solstice. But summer
is winding down—frost on the grass
this morning when we left the ranger station.
Yellow-bellied marmots are burrowing
under the outhouse vault, and ravens leave the ridges
to gorge on Mormon crickets in the meadows.
Flakes of obsidian and red flint
knapped from arrowheads hundreds of years ago
appear in the trails each day,
and the big fish fossil in the limestone cliff
dissolves a little more with every rain.

Holding Everything Down is available from Southern Illinois University Press.