The Flathead’s Secret Poet

By Beacon Staff

For years, when John Wulf worked at Plum Creek Timber Co. in Columbia Falls or managed a local garage, he held a deep, dark secret. A secret he had never told anyone.

Wulf was a poet and writer.

Now, the secret is out and Wulf, a native Montanan who lived in the Flathead Valley for nearly 60 years, has published his first book of poetry, “Lady Who Loves the Whisper: A Heart’s Unsimple Truth.” The 79-page book features a lifetime of work by Wulf, who now lives in Boise, Idaho.

Wulf says he has always been a writer, but it’s only in the last few years that anyone saw his work. Born in Williston, N.D. and raised in Montana, Wulf graduated from Columbia Falls High School in 1969. At a young age, Wulf began writing poetry, but he never shared it because he was a quiet and shy person.

“I’ve been a writer all my life, off and on,” he said. “It’s always been a release for me.”

But no one knew that until three years ago, when Wulf was reconnecting with old friends. During a conversation, he acknowledged his love of poetry. Little did he know, he had just opened up a Pandora’s box. Instantly, his friends demanded to see some of his work and, with some prodding, he finally allowed some poems to be read.

“It’s sort of (like) giving up my thoughts and feelings to the universe,” he said. “It’s sort of like giving up myself.”

Wulf’s friends, including his partner Sue Buchel, encouraged him to put together a collection of his work. The result was the “Lady Who Loves the Whisper,” which is available online and at select bookstores across the valley.

Wulf drew from past relationships and marriages to write about his romantic experiences. Wulf said the poems, which are as short as a few lines and as long as a few pages, are very personal and sharing those feelings was difficult. It’s also changed how he writes.

“There are a few things I wish I could reel back in and say differently, but I don’t think there is a writer out there who wouldn’t want to do that,” he said. “(Publishing my work) has definitely changed everything I write, because I’m now very conscience of how it sounds to my ear and everyone else’s ear.”

Buchel graduated with Wulf in 1969, but didn’t reconnect until a high school reunion three years ago. It was then she found out he was a poet, which came as a total surprise.

Lady Who Loves The Whisper | John Wulf

“Here’s this quiet guy, a guy you’ve already pinned as a blue-collar type guy and here he is a poet,” she said.

What attracted Buchel to Wulf’s work was that anyone can relate to it and that it is written for the “everyman.”

The book was printed earlier this year and Wulf said it’s too early to know how successful it will be, but he has enjoyed the experience. His favorite part has been touring around the Northwest doing book signings, readings and meeting fellow poets. Touring is nothing new for Wulf, who spends winters in Boise and in RVs around the west during the warmer months.

Even if his secret is now out, Wulf doesn’t regret letting people know his true love.

“I’ve always enjoyed stringing words together and seeing how they sound,” he said. “I like to say, ‘I’m not a cowboy but I do herd words on a regular basis.’”

The book sells for $10.95 and is available at www.amazon.com and www.etsy.com. It can also be found at Bookworks in Whitefish and Kalispell, Bad Rock Books, Whistlestop Café, Hemp Hill Productions Gift Shop and Columbia Falls Auto Clinic, all in Columbia Falls.

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