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  • Photo of The Middlewesterner by Dave Bonta

(c) 2004-2008
Tom Montag


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  • The endowments and the foundations won't, but you can help support my long-term exploration of the middle west, Vagabond In the Middle. Any donation to help defray expenses will be appreciated. Send to Tom Montag at: PO Box 8, Fairwater, WI 53931.


    "shelf life of prune juice" - The Middlewesterner

  • "elko + bar + bathroom + girlfriend" - Creek Running North
  • "what does a mole on the palm of the hand mean?" - Mole
  • "biro, slowly watching memory" - frizzyLogic
  • "pictures of someone who looks forgotten" - Blaugustine
  • "emily dickinson's address" - alembic
  • "heterosexual woman becomes lesbian in midlife" - Velveteen Rabbi
  • "if lost return to" - Slow Reads
  • "village voice newspaper headline when andy warhol died in 1987 village voice headline is god dead is god dead" - Marja-Leena
  • "I have no head" - Under a bell
  • "what can we do about privilege?" - Feathers of Hope
  • "stigmata montreal women" - Cassandra Pages
  • "Aztec sacrificial victims" - 3rd House Party
  • "ugliest woman ever" – Fishbucket
  • "prime number farting" - The Middlewesterner
  • "sasquatch beauty barn" - Via Negativa
  • "I have what looks like small pieces of bird seed in human feces my feces." - Nuthatch
  • "signs your girlfriend is not happy" - The Middlewesterner
  • "real tribe potion to become Immune to fire" - susannagig-jig
  • "does god blink" - The Middlewesterner
  • "Sleeping ovaries" - Find Me a Bluebird
  • "People find me offensive poem" - Find Me a Bluebird
  • "girlfriend taming" - The Middlewesterner
  • "naked librarians from north dakota" - The Middlewesterner
  • "signs a girlfriend is about to walk out" - The Middlewesterner
  • "naked girls at prayer" - The Middlewesterner
  • "what does 'behind the barn' mean" - The Middlewesterner
  • "basho farting" - The Middlewesterner
  • "white conic body lotion" - Mole
  • "what specifically is the emerald mole?" - Mole
  • "how to impress a tomboy girl" - The Middlewesterner
  • "ripon cookies for bear bait" - The Middlewesterner
  • "people who think they are cats" - The Middlewesterner
  • "crows and fog omen" - The Middlewesterner
  • "when you are walking in the spirit what does heat mean" - The Middlewesterner
  • "how to be more socialable" - The Middlewesterner
  • "what does making hay mean" - The Middlewesterner
  • "what does it mean to call someone an iowa farm boy" - The Middlewesterner
  • "What does it mean when there are 2-3 crows in your yard and you don't have a corn field?" - The Middlewesterner
  • "tomboy addiction" - The Middlewesterner
  • gunmetal tulle - findmeabluebird
  • mucho bonito senorita translation - findmeabluebird
  • "swollen rash" diagnosis - findmeabluebird
  • how to keep a kid occupied when sick and in bed - findmeabluebird
  • moose bums - findmeabluebird
  • uninterlaced - findmeabluebird
  • "red squirrels castrating grey squirrels" - The Middlewesterner
  • "short poems to impress a girl" - The Middlewesterner
  • "what is an important food crop in middlewest?" - The Middlewesterner
  • "the reason the elements of the writing process are important to poetry" - The Middlewesterner
  • "wallpaper, poet" - The Middlewesterner
  • "how to be a vagabond" - The Middlewesterner
  • "my jock strap hearts how can i fix it" - The Middlewesterner
  • "How do Hutterite deliver babies " - The Middlewesterner
  • "shelling corn slang" - The Middlewesterner
  • "lady of guadalupe as vagina symbol" - The Middlewesterner
  • "will the leaves still be on the trees October 21, 2006 in Davenport, Iowa?" - The Middlewesterner
  • "driving time between seydisfjordur and skaftafell" - The Middlewesterner
  • "impress a girl from north dakota" - The Middlewesterner
  • "how do tigers get born?" - The Middlewesterner
  • "jesus nude girls" - The Middlewesterner
  • "falling in love with a midwesterner" - The Middlewesterner
  • "shanties with cadillacs" - The Middlewesterner
  • "middle road sermon" - The Middlewesterner
  • "ephemeral as the summer fly" - Chatoyance
  • "how to paint ghost flames" - Chatoyance
  • "wine of cardui" - chatoyance
  • "kevlar bridal dresses" - Hoarded Ordinaries
  • "how to scold boyfriend" - Hoarded Ordinaries
  • "how to find your true self" - Hoarded Ordinaries
  • "it goes around the sun 4 times a year" - Hoarded Ordinaries
  • "how long does it take for a sprinter to regain his speed after a grade 1 hamstring tear" - The Middlewesterner
  • "understanding why crows like you" - The Middlewesterner
  • "customs and culture of the middlewest region of the United States" - The Middlewesterner
  • "naked girl in a pile of money" - The Middlewesterner
  • "dakota tom sandwich" - The Middlewesterner
  • "things to do in Middlewest US" - The Middlewesterner
  • "nebraska christian music thunderstorm" - The Middlewesterner
  • "naked girls performing prayer photos" - The Middlewesterner
  • "metaphysical stores in Davenport Iowa" - The Middlewesterner
  • "what does 'worthless as tits on a boar' mean" - The Middlewesterner
  • "what is silo liquid and why does it make the cats sick?" - The Middlewesterner
  • "names of the dinosaurs that live in water or pictures naked women" - The Middlewesterner
  • "alien + pigs + north + dakota" - The Middlewesterner
  • "poems for football players girlfriend" - The Middlewesterner
  • "what does 'making hay' mean?" - The Middlewesterner
  • "how do cows eat cabbage in south dakota" - The Middlewesterner
  • "what does a skunk mean in a dream" - The Middlewesterner
  • "what does the mole on the buddha mean" - The Middlewesterner
  • "hutterite bra" - The Middlewesterner
  • "when to planet vandalia onions" - The Middlewesterner
  • "The Republicans have been painting an unattractive portrait of Democrats roasting young children on a spit in the Capitol rotunda and what not" - The Middlewesterner
  • "kewpie doll karl rove" - The Middlewesterner
  • "Real photos of Mary and Joseph with Baby Jesus and a story how Mary got her baby, Jesus removed out of her stomach" - The Middlewesterner
  • "fog barn stillness beauty poetry" - The Middlewesterner
  • "redneck outhouse poems" - The Middlewesterner
  • "haiku farting basho horse" - The Middlewesterner
  • "signs that i'm a heroin addict" - The Middlewesterner
  • "how do you know if your ankle is sprung" - The Middlewesterner
  • "translations from spanish to english giving opinions about the preservation of wild cats in South America" - The Middlewesterner
  • "stealth bomber information" - The Middlewesterner
  • "emily dickinson with cowboy hat" - The Middlewesterner
  • "what causes bossy girlfriends" - The Middlewesterner
  • "owl hitting a windshield and meaning" - The Middlewesterner
  • "long arm handling gloves cat" - The Middlewesterner
  • "what does a rendering plant smell like?" - The Middlewesterner
  • "potion to become a superhero" - The Middlewesterner
  • "fried egg symbols of lesbianism" - The Middlewesterner
  • "when you are sixty years old should you move back to cold weather in michigan?" - The Middlewesterner
  • "learn poetry to impress a woman" - The Middlewesterner
  • "if you were asked to teach a character education program with which you found fault, what would you do?" - The Middlewesterner
  • "tractors porn" - The Middlewesterner
  • "does black or dark nail polish on a woman mean anything" - The Middlewesterner
  • "keeping warm in north dakota" - The Middlewesterner
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October 06, 2004



They are truly not worthy of you, Tom!

(And thanks for being honest about your displeasure).


A prophet is truly without honor in his own country, apparently.

I have a quibble with the "minor regional" part. But I have an even bigger problem with the whole fucking poetry business, because it is so focused on trivial accomplishments and so pays so little attention to what a given poet may actually have to SAY. You can be writing elegant nonsense, but if you're being published in all the right places, reviewed by all the right people and winning all the right prizes, folks like the organizers of this so-called festival will stand in line to kiss your ass.


("So-called" because to me, "festive" means "party," it means inclusion, joyousness and fucking in the streets.)


This is nauseating.

Even I'm embarrassed for those holding the festival. Are they so blind as to not realize how real and important your contributions are? You're of the land. You express the very language of the counties they're intending to value. What relevance do all these big city New Yorker types have to Wisconsin? What's the point of their attendence? It's almost sad - nae, it is sad - what's happened: it's like some pathetic child abandoning his true friends for a taste of a meaner popularity.

I would say I'm sorry, but I'm not - or not sorry for you, that is. I'm sorry for the small-minded ignorance of those behind the festival. And while I'm sure they have their reasons, and I'm sure the cachet of more regonizable names helps their small cause, it seems utterly ridiculous to sacrifice Wisconsin's own writers for this.

I'm glad you're angry. You ought to be.


Well, it doesn't look like it really is a Wisconsin Book Festival, after all. It's some of the good folk out in Wisconsin making a festival about something else. They have a right to make festivals of all kinds--out here we have a Slug Festival, and a Condom Festival and a Drag Queen Festival--but they should consider changing the name. I submit, "The We Live in Wisconsin but We Prefer to Ignore Local Talent and Spend Way More Flying in People We Don't Otherwise Get to Meet" festival,

These things fix themselves in time. You'll see.

By the way, what's the address of that festival and the name of the Chair? I feel a letter coming on...


Obviously you should apply to the writer's festival in Portland instead. Lekshe and I will start our own letter writing campaign, but here, you will be a celebrity from an exotic locale, obviously the only criteria used by your local festival judges.

But in all seriousness I'm sorry you feel overlooked and underappreciated. It seems unfair.

Tom Montag

Hey, you guys! Thanks for the words of support. I appreciate it.

In defense of the Book Festival, they are trying for a diversity of offerings, so as to draw to books as wide a range of the citizenry as possible, which is something of a noble undertaking.

Elck--Maybe you noticed: expressing my displeasure is not one of my weak suits.

Dave--I agree that part of the problem is what we choose to chase after and sometimes we're chasing the wrong things. And the other part of the problem is me: I'm not very good at the kissy-kissy stuff. When Karl Elder was asked "If Tom Montag were a building, which building would he be?" he responded: "A barn, and proud of it." That about says it.

L--The Director of the Book Festival is Alison Jones Chaim, Wisconsin Book Festival, Wisconsin Humanities Council, 222 S. Bedford St., Suite F, Madison, WI 53703-3688.

Siona--You said: "I'm sure the cachet of more regonizable names helps their small cause, it seems utterly ridiculous to sacrifice Wisconsin's own writers for this." That's probably EXACTLY the two parts they're trying to balance. My contention is they've got the balance wrong.

Susurra--I'm not sure how much of a "celebrity" I'd want to be. If I got "famous," if I made "too much" money from my writing, surely it would ruin me. I want to be careful of that.


"A barn, and proud of it."
As it happens, I've been a big fan of barn architecture since I was a kid. (Sometimes our family used to go on barn drives, believe it or not. That's "drives" as in "driving around looking at them." It's actually not very easy to herd barns, we discovered. They have a way of standing their ground.)

Phil Hey

You have every reason to be angry, Tom. Too often, the worst part of being in the Midwest is the notion that "experts come from somewhere else." I say that if people from somewhere else want to find out what is going on in Wisconsin literature, let them pay for their own travel.


Tom, this sounds similar to what often happens up here in Canada. Artists seem to have to become "famous" (whatever that means) outside the country before Canadians grant "fame" to their own. Rather like Dave said "A prophet is truly without honor in his own country, apparently."

Tom Montag

Yeah, Dave--those damn barns, they are what they are, and they are okay with that; they stand their ground and aren't too easily pushed around. And you don't want to piss them off: it's not pretty.

Phil--I think you're right; way too often we want someone else to authenticate our experience. We hand those "experts from somewhere else" the power to say whether our lives are meaningful, or not. It appears that the folks at the Wisconsin Book Festival have fallen into that trap, that what we do is not good enough, we've got to bring in the pre-ordained from somewhere else.

Marja-Leena--I think you're right. I think that middlewesterners exhibit the same kind of inferiority complex that Canadians sometimes show. But you know what - I don't think the Canadians nor the middle westerners have anything they need to apologize for, except for the narrowness of those arts and humanities administrators who are looking across the borders and boundaries for something else, something already blessed, rather than coming to terms with the work of value grown up around them.

Thanks, all of you, for your support and words of encouragement.

Richard Steele

THERE is nothing which more denotes a great Mind, than the Abhorrence of Envy and Detraction. This Passion reigns more among bad Poets, than among any other Set of Men.

As there are none more ambitious of Fame, than those who are conversant in Poetry, it is very natural for such as have not succeeded in it to depreciate the Works of those who have. For since they cannot raise themselves to the Reputation of their Fellow-Writers, they must endeavour to sink it to their own Pitch, if they would still keep themselves upon a Level with them.
- Joseph Addison (1711)

Tom Montag

Richard Steele, with a phony e-mail address of, actually comes to us from Madison. The signature is cute but wins no cigar. "Mr. Steele" found us by Googling "angry Wisconsin Book Festival." ARIN Search results for "Mr. Steele's" IP address ( finds he is from Madison:

Address: 525 Junction Rd.
City: Madison
StateProv: WI
PostalCode: 53717
Country: US

NetRange: -
NetHandle: NET-69-11-128-0-1
Parent: NET-69-0-0-0-0
NetType: Direct Allocation
NameServer: NS.TDS.NET
NameServer: A.DNS.TDS.NET
NameServer: B.DNS.TDS.NET
NameServer: C.DNS.TDS.NET
NameServer: D.DNS.TDS.NET
NameServer: E.DNS.TDS.NET
RegDate: 2002-12-23
Updated: 2003-03-19

TechHandle: ASI5-ARIN
TechName: Sielaff, Alex
TechPhone: +1-608-664-4056

OrgAbuseHandle: ABUSE163-ARIN
OrgAbuseName: abuse
OrgAbusePhone: +1-800-358-3648

OrgTechHandle: SERVI6-ARIN
OrgTechName: Service Activation
OrgTechPhone: +1-608-664-4699

OrgTechHandle: KR181-ARIN
OrgTechName: Roberts, Kevin
OrgTechPhone: +1-608-664-4690

Worse than being a poet, I think, is being any anonymous attacker of poets. What is it you are afraid of?


Blake: "The weak in courage is strong in cunning."

It occurs to me that the quote from Addison might well apply to the gatekeepers at the academy and their chummy exclusion of those who write about things that matter, using language from the heart and from the people.

But implicit in the quote is the very Anglo-Saxon assumption that poets can and should be ranked into an ordered hierarchy, and that those further down the pyramid should keep their traps shut.

In fact, I have not heard of many poets, regardless of reputation, who are not to some extent afflicted with this very human failing. I would be frankly a little suspicious of those who claim to be altogether free from such feelings. Blake again:
"I always take my judgment from a Fool
Because his judgment is so very Cool,
Not prejudic'd by feelings great or small.
Amiable state! he cannot feel at all."

Tom Montag

Dave--I do believe that writing is NOT a competitive sport, and by nature I am less given than some to ranking poets in order of their talent or achievement.

The notion that I might be pursuing "Fame" is more laughable. Ask my wife. She'll tell you that if something starts to succeed, I back away from it.

The real "ranking" of poets goes on in the minds of those who determine that someone from some other place (Chicago or Minneapolis or New York City or London or wherever) is better suited to appear at the Wisconsin Book Festival than a Wisconsin poet is. The unspoken assumption is that we must go outside our area for excellence, which is an unfortunate message to be sending to young, impressionable, potential writers in Wisconsin. It is the same as saying that you should be interested in what goes on in a New York brownstone, but what happens here is beneath us. And you KNOW how I feel about that!


Tom, reading backwards now, I seem to have missed this entire thing. Sorry I didn't add my commiserations to the rest; the Festival letter was truly offensive and you're right to be pissed off - and say so.

Tom Montag

Hi, Beth. Don't feel bad that you didn't get your commiseration in earlier. I'm pretty much over my anger at this point; either that, or it has hardened into a philosophical principle: the decision to import talent to a region, instead of choosing talent from the region, sends the message that what is worthwhile lies out there and what is here is useless, and as far as I'm concerned that's the WRONG message to be sending. In my world, first you celebrate your own, then you celebrate others. I think the Wisconsin Book Festival line-up over-does the "celebrating others," at the expense of Wisconsin talent which could have and should have been there.

I don't know the people who are making the decisions, nor where they come from, but I wonder how many of them are "carpet-baggers." That is, they are climbing the career ladder, but don't have a vested interest in the community they are meant to serve. (It's not just arts & humanities administrators who are guilty of this, but college presidents, school superintendents, etc., who move from job to better job, investing in their career instead of in the community, and sometimes leaving disasters behind them.) But enough.

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