Fact & Fiction

Published : Saturday, April 02, 2011 | Label:

Ten years ago, I drove into Missoula, Montana, from Helena—where I had spent time with the poet and memoirist (The Stars, The Snow, The Fire), John Haines. In the independent bookstore on Higgins Street, that night ten years back, I heard WIlliam KIttredge read from his new book, The Nature of Generosity. The following morning over a large breakfast in a Missoula diner, I interviewed BIll for the dissertation I was then writing at the wheel of a rented truck, and then I mentioned I was writing a book called The Blue Plateau, which I’d love to send him when it was ready. Get it done, BIll said. Send it to me then. Finishing that book took a little longer than I had in mind then. But I got there in 2008, and the book came out in the US in 2009, with some words of praise on its cover from Bill Kittredge. Three nights back, I stood in Fact & Fiction, myself, and read from that book in Missoula, Montana.

The circle felt almost round.

John Haines died a month ago, a great poet never as widely read or as rewarded as he deserved in his life. But he will be.

“The world is full of bastards,” wrote Norman Maclean, “increasing in number the farther one gets from Missoula, Montana.” It’s a pretty university town, Missoula, sitting at the foot of the Bitterroots. I met some fine people there. None of them bastards; not by any means. Not that night, anyway.

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