May 2, 2018
On April 19, 2018, author David Abrams visited the University of Montana Western campus as a guest of the “Dances with Words” series.
“Dances with Words” is produced by English Professor Alan Weltzien. The series, free and open to the public, provides the community with a unique opportunity to listen to writers reading their own works, including Montana Western student writers.
The event was opened by talented student writer, Joseph Reed. Reed is the Vice President of the Twisted Ink Creative Writing Club, and he read four poems including “Life is Strange.”
In the poem, he describes life as “a tumbleweed wheeling in the wind, never stopping, finding itself back in the same place it began.”
While introducing Abrams, Professor Weltzien described his new novel as a “stunning and grim story with tough, terse dialogue.”
Abrams reminded the audience that he had been a guest at “Dances with Words” once before. At the time, he had yet to publish his first novel, and he said that the occasion made him feel “he was on his way.”
He even mentioned the reading at Montana Western briefly in his novel “Fobbit.”
Abrams’ reading for the evening largely consisted of two passages from his new novel, “Brave Deeds.”
The story “follows a squad of six AWOL soldiers as they attempt to cross war-torn Baghdad on foot to attend the funeral of their leader, Staff Sergeant Rafe Morgan.”
Abrams mentioned that April is National Poetry Month, and that Gwendolyn Brooks was a large inspiration for his book — specifically her poem “We Real Cool.”
The piece, first published in 1960, describes teenagers cutting class to play billiards and ends with the iconic sentence, “we die soon.”
With this poem in mind, Abrams decided to write his novel, “Brave Deeds,” in the collective first-person, meaning the narrator is “we.”
This unique perspective was put to masterful use. In one section, the unit of marching men is described as a “mutant dozen-legged beetle.”
He even inserted “We Real Cool” into his story overtly. The sergeant who has passed away, is met in a flashback where he makes his squadron recite the poem as a cadence during their morning exercises.
Abrams also read a poem he wrote as a tribute to Brooks, titled “We Drown Them in Night,” which retold her classic from the point-of-view of a military squadron.
“We form a band. We music the land,” he read.
For more information about the “Dances with Words” series, please contact Alan Weltzien by email at [email protected] or call 406-683-7431.