Poetry has been used to comment on everything from puppy love to world calamity. James Brock had more of the latter in mind when he compiled the poems for his just-published collection “The Sunshine Mine Disaster” (University of Idaho Press, 74 pages, $12.95 paperback).
Brock, a visiting assistant professor of English at Idaho State University, has researched the tragedy - which occurred at the Kellogg, Idaho, mine on May 2, 1972, resulting in 92 deaths - and made it the centerpiece of this fascinating little book.
Combining personal reminiscence with historical documentation, Brock not only gives an idea of what it is like to work underground, but he sets the stage for such a tragedy, leads us through it and then studies the aftermath.
Fans of poetry may be confused by parts of what Brock has constructed here. Some of his chapters are little more than literal transpositions of dialogue. For example, one “poem” is merely a snippet of Clarence Darrow’s 11-hour-long closing statement in the July, 1907, murder trial of union activist Bill Haywood.
But what a moving snippet it is, especially when put in the context of the whole story.
And what a moving book.
To order from UI Press, call (800) 847-7377.
Any book titled “Who Owns the West?” (Mercury House, 168 pages, $14.95, paperback) would seem to be about as interesting to read as wood pulp is flavorful to eat.
But when the book’s author is William Kittredge, the long-time University of Montana professor of English, such a nap-inducing title is misleading. The extended essay is not just about the economics of the new West, but it attempts to define what the new West is.
And in between, Kittredge, who grew up in Oregon and has taught in Missoula since 1969, shares his own experiences. One passage describing his drinking exploits with short-story writer Raymond Carver is particularly fascinating - and ultimately reverential.
As Kittredge wanted it would be.
“I hope there is nothing about this series of antics that sound prideful, like the kind of stories that you dine out on,” Kittredge wrote. Yet, he admits, “Once there was, once I used them that way.”
Lookin’ West, part 2
One of the great things about having several university presses in your own back yard is that you - that is we - have easy access to the kind of historical and anthropological texts in which such presses specialize.
The spring 1996 catalog for Washington State University Press, for example, advertises another in a long line of regional histories written by an area scholar.
“Voice of the Old Wolf: Lucullus Virgil McWhorter and the Nez Perce Indians” (WSU Press, 250 pages, $32 hardback, $19.95 paperback) tells the story of a Yakima rancher who dedicated his life to recording the history, legends and language of the Nez Perce tribes. The rancher, McWhorter (1860-1944), ended up having his work published in two books: “Yellow Wolf” and “Hear Me, My Chiefs!”
Author Steven R. Evans, who teaches at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, credits McWhorter with recording the tribe’s history following the 1877 Nez Perce War up to the 1940s. As pointed out by Herman C. Deutsch, who wrote the introduction to “Hear Me, My Chiefs!” McWhorter was uniquely qualified to do so.
“McWhorter had identified himself so completely with the life and causes of his native friends that he virtually became one of them,” Deutsch wrote. “There can be little doubt that McWhorter was qualified to interpret the spirit of Nez Perce culture.”
To order from WSU Press, call (800) 453-7360.
Another for Nisbet
Fresh off the success of his prize-winning book “Sources of the River,” Spokane author Jack Nisbet has another regional study ready for publication.
“Purple Flat Top: In Search of a Place” (Sasquatch Press, 196 pages, $12.95 paperback) is a collection of loosely connected reminiscences dating from the first day that Nisbet drove into the town of Chewelah through the years he lived there and wrote for the Chewelah Independent.
“Purple Flat Top” is due April 15. To order it from Sasquatch Books, call (206) 467-4314.
The reader board
A reading by Einar Svensson, author of “Ski Skating With Champions: How to Ski With Least Energy,” has been postponed until Feb. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at at Auntie’s Bookstore, Main and Washington. The reading was scheduled for Wednesday.