December 31, 2021

Whitebark PineWhitebark PineCrater Lake National Park, Oregon

This poem and photo appeared in the third edition of Trouble magazine:



By Matt Witt



trying to find my way up

with no trail

no footprints to follow

just snow


Through woods of firs and hemlocks

climbing steep open spaces

that would be meadows in summer

but now are huge white expanses

too cold to melt



a whitebark pine


sticking out of the snow


After three miles

the Crater Lake rim

formed by a volcano

thousands of years ago


The lake

a caldera

twenty square miles

winter blue


Frigid wind

cornices of unsupported snow

one wrong step

into the water

two thousand feet below

and almost two thousand feet deep


To the left

a massive peak

named by white men

for a president’s son


To the right


named for a federal agent

who annihilated native people


Peaks named as if this place

is a monument

to their legacy


This place

that was here

long before us

and will be here

long after we

melt away

like the snow

I am standing on


Back then

average snowfall

was nearly twice

what it is now

and the lake and air

were many degrees cooler


Habitat for

furry pikas

whitebark pines

and gray-crowned rosy finches

already in danger

and that’s just the beginning


Our legacy

what to name it?


December 11, 2021

Green-Tailed Towhee Taking a BathGreen-Tailed Towhee Taking a BathCascade-Siskiyou National Monument, Oregon

This poem and photo were published by New Verse News on May 27, 2021.


By Matt Witt

This green-tailed towhee
that weighs about an ounce
migrated more than 1,000 miles
from its wintering home in Mexico
to its annual nesting ground
in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument,
where I watched it taking a bath at a tiny spring.
It migrates every year,
eluding hawks and falcons,
braving snowstorms and lightning,
never losing its way.
This bird is a lot stronger
than I’ll ever be.

World Wide Work bulletin on books, films, music you may have missed

November 06, 2021

Here’s the latest World Wide Work update on films, books, and music you may have missed.


Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson (Scribner). An extraordinary novel sympathetically portrays working- class families in northernmost California who are dependent on redwoods logging but suffer from exposure to herbicides their employers use in the woods.

The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels (Hub City). It is 1986, and a young man who had to leave his small Appalachian community because he was gay now has AIDS and decides to come home. Each member of his family has to come to terms with how welcoming to be.

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia (Flatiron). Two threads run through this vivid novel: the challenges faced by multiple generations of Cuban women in a “man’s world”, and the trauma caused for Central American women and girls by U.S. immigration policy.

There’s No Such Thing as An Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura (Bloomsbury). The young Japanese woman who is the main character in this novel moves from job to job, each more dehumanizing and meaningless than the last. And yet even these absurd assignments can’t drum out of her and her coworkers the desire to do a good job and have work with a purpose.

Telephone by Percival Everett (Graywolf). Just as a geologist learns that his eight-year-old daughter has a rare fatal disease, he finds a note in Spanish in a jacket he ordered online that is a mysterious plea for help. The two storylines progress side by side.

Madstone by Paul Fattig (Hellgate). When the U.S. established a draft for World War I, two brothers in southern Oregon who did not believe in the war hid out for three years in remote mountain terrain. Their nephew, a veteran journalist with a knack for storytelling, uses their experience as a starting point for a wide-ranging and entertaining exploration of the history of the region, its people, and his own family.

The Water Defenders by Robin Broad and John Cavanagh (Beacon). When a global mining company threatened the water supply that communities in El Salvador depended on, a coalition of local and international allies won unexpected and precedent-setting victories to stop it. This account describes the successful campaign and draws lessons for others fighting to prioritize human needs over corporate greed.

The Caring Class by Richard Schweid (ILR Press). More than 2 million people work each day as home health aides, helping seniors and people with disabilities to stay in their homes. Nearly all are paid poverty wages, often while generating substantial profits for financial speculators. And this doesn’t count the millions of people who aren’t paid but somehow fit caring for a loved one into their already stressful schedules. Schweid focuses on the experience of a large home health aide cooperative in South Bronx that is trying to make improvements for both aides and clients.

Not a Nation of Immigrants by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (Beacon). A historian argues that liberal politicians make progress more difficult by describing American history as a continual process of immigrants coming from all over the world to achieve freedom and prosperity. In separate chapters, she reviews the actual history of indigenous people, African Americans, Latinx, and Asian Americans, as well as oppressed poor people who originally came from Ireland and Italy and had to fight discrimination here for generations before they were rebranded as “white.”  

The Chinese Must Go by Beth Lew-Williams (Harvard). After Chinese workers provided much of the labor to “settle” the West, a violent movement that aimed to expel and exclude them from particular communities and from the U.S. in general laid the groundwork for anti-immigrant policies that continue to this day.

Trees in Trouble by Daniel Matthews (Counterpoint). Many people have assumed that climate change would progress slowly and incrementally, and that western pine forests would be able to naturally heal themselves after increasingly intense fires. Not so, says this call to action.

Sidelined by Julie DiCaro (Dutton). With some frequency, sexism in the sports industry is briefly spotlighted after a particularly outrageous case of rape or domestic violence, and then mostly fades from the public eye. A former sports broadcaster makes an important contribution by breaking down the recent history of women facing discrimination and harassment as athletes and as journalists covering them.

Ending Parkinson’s Disease by Ray Dorsey, Todd Sherer, Michael Okun, and Bastiaan Bloem (Public Affiars). In a highly readable book that will be of interest even to people with no Parkinson’s currently in their family, four medical researchers ask why Parkinson’s is growing faster than any other neurological disorder, including Alzheimer’s. They cite scientific studies showing that the disease is linked to specific pesticides as well as solvents in well water and lay out an action plan for keeping the number of cases from doubling again in the next two decades.

Soul Full of Coal Dust by Chris Hamby (Little Brown). While conservative politicians claim to be great friends of the coal industry, thousands of miners continue to be needlessly exposed to deadly coal dust that causes a slow and painful death from black lung disease. Activist miners and allies who continue to fight for prevention and compensation are up against politically powerful corporations who pay wealthy lawyers and doctors to shield them from responsibility.

Someday I’ll Miss This Place Too by Dan Branch (Cirque). A new law school graduate from California committed to a year as a Legal Services lawyer in a small Yup’ik community in Alaska and ended up staying in that area for more than a decade. He came to love the place and its people and to mourn the impact of colonization.

Broken Horses by Brandi Carlisle (Crown). The popular singer songwriter provides a candid memoir about growing up poor, the process of coming out as gay, and finding her way in the music field.

Course of the Empire by Ken Light (Steidl). A masterful black-and-white photographer traveled to U.S. communities, large and small, rich and poor, to document social disintegration and injustice stemming from racism and profiteering by the rich.

Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown (Shadow Mountain). A boy with a talent for creating comic books has an eye disease that could eventually take his sight. He is teased by other kids, except a new girl at the school who has both talents and challenges of her own.


Colin in Black and White. Colin Kaepernick was raised as the adopted biracial son of white parents -- a corporate executive and a nurse – in a California suburb. This six-part Netflix series directed by Ava DuVernay focuses on Kaepernick’s teen years to show how class privilege did not prevent him from being subject to racial discrimination, especially as he tried to realize his dream of becoming a major college quarterback as a step toward a career in pro football.

Hive. This feature film is based on the actual experience of women whose husbands were disappeared during the war in Kosovo. Fifty widows came together, over fierce patriarchal opposition in their community, to support themselves by forming a cooperative food business.

Bone Cage. In this brilliantly acted feature film, the last forest in a Nova Scotia logging community is being clearcut, and young people are out of options.

On This Side of the World (A este lado del mundo). The main character in this feature film, an engineer in Spain, is sent by his company to the city of Melilla, a Spanish enclave on the coast of North Africa. His assignment is to help strengthen giant walls designed to keep immigrants from entering Spanish territory and thus gaining access to Europe. In a matter of days, he is forced to confront the realities of migration that have never been his concern.

Daughter of a Lost Bird. A documentary follows a young woman and her mother, both of Lummi heritage and both of whom were taken from their tribe and adopted by white families, as they explore reconnecting with their roots.

Orchestrating Change. A world-class conductor whose career was derailed by mental illness decided to start an orchestra made up of others with similar conditions. They now perform at concert halls, prisons, and youth facilities and are helping to start similar orchestras in multiple cities.

How They Got Over. Black gospel groups in the 1930s and 1940s overcame racism to pave the way for rock and roll and rhythm and blues.


Georgia Blue by Jason Isbell. Isbell and other well known singers put together this album of covers of songs first recorded by Georgia musicians and are donating the proceeds to three nonprofit organizations: Black Voters Matter, Fair Fight, and Georgia STAND-UP.

Hand Me Down by Kate Rusby. The English folksinger brings her beautiful voice to covers of songs from a variety of eras by an eclectic selection of artists, including Prince, Lyle Lovett, Kirsty MacColl, Bob Marley, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, James Taylor, and many more.

World Wide Work -- Books, Films, Music You May Have Missed

September 06, 2021

Here’s the latest World Wide Work update on films, books, and music you may have missed.


Aviary by Deirdre McNamer (Milkweed). In this mystery novel that tenderly explores the characters’ emotional lives, both old and young try to maintain human connection even as their lives are disrupted by corporate greed and social breakdown.

Variations on the Body by Maria Ospina (Coffee House Press). Unusually creative short stories illuminate life for women and girls in Colombia, often from a class perspective. In one story, a young woman who ran away from a group engaged in armed struggle against the Colombian government clashes with a publishing house editor who keeps trying to reshape the woman’s account of her experiences.  

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore (HarperCollins). In this exceptionally well-written novel, an oil boom in west Texas draws men seeking to cash in but brings trouble for working class women and girls who depend on each other for support and survival.

The Parted Earth by Anjali Enjeti (Hub City). The Partition – the division of India by Great Britain into two countries, one majority Hindu and the other majority Muslim (Pakistan) – left psychological and cultural scars that continue to be passed on from generation to generation. One main character in this novel is a Hindu woman who at age 16 is separated by the Partition from the Muslim boy she hopes to marry. The other main character is her granddaughter who lives today in Atlanta and yearns to learn about her heritage.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes (Viking). During the Great Depression the New Deal’s Packhorse Librarians program brought books to more than 100,000 isolated rural residents in Kentucky. This novel paints portraits of some of the women who rode horseback up remote hollows to deliver books, often over the objections of local coal magnates who worried that the spread of ideas would stir up trouble.

The Ocean’s Whistleblower by David Gremillet (Greystone). A fascinating biography describes the work of Daniel Pauly, a leading marine biologist whose groundbreaking research has documented the impact of excessive commercial fishing all over the world. It also follows his personal life, beginning with a most unusual and difficult childhood as the product of a brief affair between a white French woman and a Black American soldier.

Rich Thanks to Racism by Jim Freeman (ILR Press).  Racism in education, criminal justice, and immigration policy is not just a result of individual white people’s attitudes. It’s also crucial to look at the ways big corporations and billionaires use their political power to maintain racist systems they profit from.

Fulfillment by Alec MacGillis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Through case studies showing the impact of Amazon on communities, workers, people of color, the environment, small businesses, and the political process, a skilled journalist provides a valuable intersectional picture of a society falling apart under the changes huge corporations are imposing.

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio (One World). A young journalist traveled the country to uncover dramatic stories of what being undocumented means to immigrants who toil far from the media spotlight.

Four Hundred Souls edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain (One World). Ninety writers explore Black experiences in America in the past 400 years through powerful essays, short stories, poetry, and other writing.

What We Mean by the American Dream by Doron Taussig (ILR Press). Liberal rhetoric about “leveling the playing field” and “rewarding work” reinforces the idea that the goal of society is to make sure that who wins and who loses is decided “fairly.” This examination of “meritocracy” argues that society’s goal should instead be to make sure everyone has what they need, and that most achievement or failure is collective, not just individual.

The Cult of We by Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell (Crown). Two Wall Street Journal reporters look at greed at the upper reaches of capitalism today by recounting the story of WeWork, a commercial real estate company that had Wall Street dreaming of making huge profits until it crashed, leaving thousands unemployed while the founder walked away with enormous wealth.

Stealing Home by Eric Nusbaum (Public Affairs). Written in the lively style of a columnist with an eye for memorable anecdotes, this is the story of Mexican American families who were displaced to build Dodger Stadium, the economic and political power structure that made that happen, and an activist who had hoped to build a public housing community on that land instead.

Drums in the Distance by Joe Mulhall ((Icon). A British researcher shares results of a decade spent investigating and at times infiltrating far right groups in the U.S., Europe, India, Brazil, and elsewhere. His report shows that the problem extends far beyond any single country or politician.

Girls Who Build by Katie Hughes (Black Dog & Leventhal). Interviews and photographs of 45 girls who use power tools for making things are combined with suggestions for 13 do-it-herself building projects and other tips.

The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble (Old Barn). When environmental apocalypse hits Australia, a young girl and her brother take their dogs on a harrowing journey in search of food and safety.

There’s No Base Like Home by Jessica Mendoza and Alana Mendoza Dusan (TU Books). Two sisters who were accomplished softball players themselves draw on their own experiences for this story about a Mexican-American girl in sixth grade who faces challenges in becoming a ballplayer and dealing with team dynamics and middle school.



Reservation Dogs. An irreverent 8-part TV series created by an all-indigenous team focuses on four indigenous teenagers in rural Oklahoma.

Summer of Soul. In the summer of 1969 (the same summer as Woodstock and rebellion in many urban Black communities), the six-week Harlem Cultural Festival featured outdoor performances by many of the most famous Black performers. This documentary combines footage of some of those performances with evocative interviews with attendees conducted at the time and more recently. 

The Surrogate. A web designer for a nonprofit happily agrees to carry a baby for her best friend and his husband. But three months into the pregnancy, the results of a pre-natal test force the three of them to examine their values and their relationship.

Guie'dani's Navel. A Zapotec single mother leaves her small village to work as a live-in housekeeper for an upwardly mobile family in Mexico City, bringing her teenage daughter with her. While the woman does her best to please the family, her daughter rebels against the exploitation and indignities imposed on them.

Of Mind and Music. The lives of a Latinx Alzheimer's researcher and a Black street singer in New Orleans become intertwined as he tries to help her and her family recognize and cope with her condition.

My Wonderful Wanda. A poor woman from Poland takes a job in Switzerland providing care for the ailing patriarch of a wealthy, dysfunctional family to earn money she needs to provide for her own children back home. An unexpected turn of events challenges all concerned.



The Horses and the Hounds by James McMurtry. McMurtry knows how to tell a story in song, whether it’s about a rekindled old love or America’s recent wars or just a bad day made worse by not being able to find his glasses.

Family Reunion by Della Mae. We can’t go back, sings this all-women string band, to “The Way It Was Before.”

Powerful Poetry on RadarPoetry.com

October 27, 2020

Horsetail at DawnHorsetail at DawnRogue River, Oregon

Powerful poetry by eight women is contained in the latest edition of Radar, an online poetry journal that publishes a photograph or other image with each poem.

I'm lucky enough to have six of my photographs published along side poems by Amy Miller.

If you haven't seen RadarPoetry.com before, check it out.


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