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Area authors share poetry, stories at public reading

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A  reading of poetry, rife with raw emotion and stirring imagery, entertained listeners on Saturday afternoon at the Hangin’ Art Gallery. 

Audience members were asked to think about a question at the start of the gathering before acclaimed poet Heather Cahoon and others shared their work. “What is it about stories and poetry that make them so valuable?” presenter Marti de Alva asked. She proposed that stories link generations together and help grandparents and children learn about each other. 

Audience member Caroline McDonald added another element to the discussion by saying poetry provides a safe space for people to confront difficult issues. Her sentiment was validated when poems about suicide were later shared. 

De Alva suggested that poetry is like the harvesting of essential oils when the flower is distilled down to its essence much like a person’s experience distills into a poem.

“I came to discover poetry late in life,” she said. “Finding it was a surprise. I don’t know how I missed it.”

Poet Heather Cahoon was introduced as a graduate from the University of Montana with a list of publications. She went to school in St. Ignatius where she found a community of people supporting her as she developed her craft. She currently lives in Missoula and said it was good to come home to the Flathead Indian Reservation to read her work.

Her newest collection of poems “Horsefly Dress” will be available at the gallery once they are published. Her previously published collections are at the Salish Kootenai College bookstore. 

Cahoon writes about many topics including the origin of death tied with Native American culture and rebirth in coyote stories and of her childhood playing in a field of grass. 

“They aren’t all about tribal oral traditions or suffering,” she said. “Some serve as guides on how you deal with certain things, and they end on a brighter note.”

She read several poems including the one that inspired the title of her collection. She started out in a soft voice: “A long wing feather propels the stunted body of a black-crowned night heron through the air, breaking apart the dried mouth of memory ….”

Gary LeDeau went on stage to share a thrilling story about a time when he was a young teenager in the Missoula area. He found a baby porcupine with a friend and they put it in the trunk of his car. Someone he didn’t know chased them down in another car, and he and ended up letting the animal go. “We felt embarrassed and stupid about it,” he said.

Peggy Meinholtz is a retired drama professor and she presented an exciting story about the “lost objects ball” where car keys and other objects dance together until they get dizzy. One sock missing its twin ends up becoming a puppet in a traveling show.

Danny Kraus shared poems filled with nature including one about hiding behind a bearskin as three wolves approach. He said he writes narrative poems in spurts with inspiration coming quickly and then quieting for a few years.    

Audience members were invited to share their work at the end of the poetry reading. Sean Parson shared his song lyrics that de Alva said were clearly poetic. 

Timarah Ivanoff didn’t want to read her poem in front of the audience, but a friend thought it was so powerful that she volunteered to read it. In the poem, Ivanoff asks what a person should do when someone close decides to die by suicide. The poem continues: “What would I give to sit down with you?” And then: “Do you hear me when I’m screaming to the sky?”

De Alva ended the gathering with her own poem about how the town of St. Ignatius came together to support a woman who lost her three children in an airplane accident in 1992. She called it a poem of compassion.

Information about upcoming events and future poetry readings with the Killdeer Artisans Guild can be found on the group’s Facebook page. They are currently selling tickets for a winter art raffle of a painting called “Morning at Ninepipes” displayed at the gallery.

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