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Jenni Fallein featured at Dances with Words

UMW News Bureau

Dillon resident and Three Bridges Yoga instructor Jenni Fallein will be the featured reader at the Nov. 18 Dances with Words reading at the University of Montana Western. By Kaitlin Ens Dillon resident and Three Bridges Yoga instructor Jenni Fallein will be the featured reader at the Nov. 18 Dances with Words reading at the University of Montana Western. Fallein’s Thursday reading will begin at 7:30 p.m. in UMW’s coffee shop, The Cup, located on the lower level of the Swysgood Technology Center. Montana Western’s English department sponsors the Dances with Words series, which features spoken word by both local and visiting writers and poets. The public is always welcome to this free series. Fallein plans to read from her recently published book of poems “If Beauty Were a Spy.”
“It's my first volume of published poems,” Fallein stated. “It takes place over about 12 years of caring for three different people, two of whom had rare neurological disorders. It's not all gloom and doom; there are other observations and topics, and there is humor, but it is largely a book about caregiving and the process of dying.”
Fallein’s love of writing was ingrained in her from an early age.
“I come from a culture of writing,” Fallein explained. “My grandmother was a scribbler of sorts. My son is a novelist and also invented Gumball Poetry, poems in gumball machines which got all of us fired up about poetry.”
After studying with Bill Kittredge and writing her own short stories, Fallein says she moved on to being a singer-songwriter.
“I worked as a blood drawer in nursing homes,” Fallein recalled. “Hearing all of those stories, the old people sitting on their memories with no where to put them. I'd come home and write their story into a song.”
Fallein performed in coffee houses in Spokane, Wash. before going to China in 1997 with fellow poet and essayist Roger Dunsmore, a current Montana Western professor and former professor at The University of Montana. Upon their return Fallein and Dunsmore started a poetry circle in their home. The poetry circles, which they have continued, motivated Fallein to keep writing.
“I think of poetry as something you can do one-handed, driving down the highway, or on the back of your grocery list,” Fallein said of her writing practice. “I always scribble down ideas and phrases, but it's having to show up at the weekly poetry circle that motivates me to finish the poem, to edit it.”
The poetry circles have also motivated her writing in other genres. “The Galling Debacle of Palsy” is a fictional novel she is in the progress of writing.
“For me, even the fiction is partly autobiographical,” Fallein stated. “You write it as fiction so your family won't hate you and your neighbors won't sue you, but for sure they will still notice themselves in there somewhere. Plus, it allows you to say the things that in hindsight you wished you would have said.”
As a regular listener at the readings Fallein says she was very honored to have the opportunity to read at Dances with Words.
“Readings are important in that the audible voice you give to the work is the voice in which you wrote it,” Fallein explained.  “It enlightens the work, and it gets the work out there. If you think you wrote about something that matters, then to present it to the public is almost a service, a giving back to the community you care about.”
Fallein deeply appreciates the act of writing as well as other artistic forms. She says she still enjoys putting poetry to song and also has a new showing of artwork at Venus Rising in Butte, Mont. on Dec. 3.
“I don't write just to be a writer,” she added. “I write as a process for life.”
The university and local patrons fund the Dances with Words series. The next Dances with Words will feature David Abrams on Dec. 2.