West Texas Talk

West Texas Talk — Marfa Public Radio’s flagship program — made its debut when the station launched and is now a repository of hundreds of local profiles.

The show is hosted by Diana Nguyen and other contributors. The program is also produced by Diana Nguyen. 

In May 2019, West Texas Talk transitioned from a thirty-minute program into an hour-long show.

The first half of the program features discussions about regional issues and topics with residents and experts. Whether looking at immigration on the border, delving into West Texas history, or having conversations about the Big Bend’s changing towns we hope to explore the topics that matter most to residents of West Texas.

The second half of the show celebrates the creative spirit of Far West Texas and features conversations with writers, musicians, filmmakers, and artists who both live here and pass through the region. 

We invite you to join in on the conversation by telling us who you think we should interview and the issues you would like to hear about by emailing diana@marfapublicradio.org.

Subscribe to the West Texas Talk podcast on Apple Podcasts.

West Texas Talk broadcasts Thursday at 6 pm and rebroadcasts Friday at 9 am.

The show’s theme music was composed by Andy Stack.

Recently on West Texas Talk:

Thursday, Jul 18, 2019:
Reporter Carlos Morales On Immigration In The Big Bend; Poet Carl Adamshick

About six miles outside of Presidio, the Rio Grande is reduced to a sliver about 5 feet across. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

Carlos Morales

Diana Nguyen talks to Marfa Public Radio reporter Carlos Morales about immigration.

They discuss national policies shaping the fluctuating apprehension numbers along the border, temporary shelters, and the continued practice of family separation.

Carl Adamshick (Julie Keefe)

Carl Adamshick

Later, Ian Lewis talks to Portland-based poet Carl Adamschick, who is in Marfa as a Lannan writer-in-residence.

Adamshick is the editor at Tavern Books, a nonprofit poetry press, and has written four books of poetry. His first book, Curses and Wishes, won the Walt Whitman Award in 2010. His latest book, Birches, was published earlier this year.

Adamshick will read at the Crowley Theater on Sunday, July 21st at 6 pm.

Thursday, Jul 11, 2019:
Fire In The Big Bend; Lance Scott Walker On Houston Rap

Gary Mitschke and Joe Pasqua (Diana Nguyen / Marfa Public Radio)

Gary Mitschke and Joe Pasqua

Gary Mitschke, Marfa’s Volunteer Fire Department Chief and Joe Pasqua, the Coordinator for the Alpine Region of the Texas A&M Forest Service talk to Diana Nguyen about volunteer fire departments in the region, fire conditions in the Big Bend, and preventative measures for property owners in vulnerable areas.

(University of Texas Press, 2018)

Lance Scott Walker

Later in the show, a re-broadcast of a conversation Nguyen had with writer Lance Scott Walker.

They spoke in late 2018 when Walker came through Marfa on his book tour for Houston Rap Tapes: An Oral History of Bayou City Hip-Hop.They talk about Houston rap and its far-reaching influence.

Walker is a Galveston native who lived in Houston for over a decade, where he wrote for The Houston Chronicle and Houston Press. He’s now based in New York and is currently working on a biography about DJ Screw.

Thursday, Jul 4, 2019:
Remembering Lonn Taylor; Filmmaker Ben Masters

Lonn Taylor at Marfa Public Radio (Sarah Vasquez)

Lonn Taylor

On this episode, we’re remembering the late historian Lonn Taylor.

Tom Michael, the founder of Marfa Public Radio, talks about the magic the Rambling Boy brought to the airwaves.

Then, you’ll hear an interview Diana Nguyen had with Taylor in April 2019 about his life and most recent book, Turning the Pages of Texas.

More interviews with Lonn Taylor:
February 16, 2012 – Lonn Taylor on Texas, My Texas: Musings of a Rambling Boy
December 19, 2012 – Maiya Keck and Lonn Taylor on holiday entertaining
August 12, 2013 – Lonn Taylor on Marfa history
September 10, 2014 – Lonn Taylor on The Colbert Report
April 25, 2019 – Lonn Taylor on Marfa for the Perplexed

You can find the Rambling Boy archive here.

Ben Masters (Courtesy of)

Ben Masters

Conservation filmmaker Ben Masters talks to Diana Nguyen about The River and the Wall.

The film follows five friends on an immersive adventure through the unknown wilds of the Texas borderlands as they travel 1,200 miles from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico on horses, mountain bikes, and canoes.

They set out to document the borderlands and explore the potential impacts of a wall on the natural environment.

Ballroom Marfa and Marfa Book Company will host a screening and Q&A at the Crowley Theater on Friday, July 19 at 7 pm.

Thursday, Jun 27, 2019:
Marfa Public Radio Update; Chinati Artist-In-Residence Nicolas Shake

(Sara Melancon / Marfa Public Radio)

Station Update

Diana Nguyen and Elise Pepple update listeners on what’s been happening at Marfa Public Radio.

They talk about the station’s national awards for journalism, challenges with the KXWT signal in Midland-Odessa, give an update on the Presidio broadcast and go over new projects and music shows.

Nicolas Shake (Courtesy of)

Nicolas Shake

The Chinati Foundation in Marfa has been hosting artist residents from a variety of disciplines since 1989. Every year, they receive hundreds of proposals from artists and invite only a select few to work Marfa for two months.

On West Texas Talk, we’ll be talking to the residents to get to know a little more about them and how they think.

Diana Nguyen talks to outgoing Chinati artist-in-residence Nicolas Shake who came to Marfa to work in May and June.

Shake grew up in Palmdale, California and currently lives and works in Los Angeles.

During his residency, he worked on sculptures made from patterned thermoplastic, dyed fabrics exposed to sun and rain, and abstract works on paper.

Thursday, Jun 20, 2019:
Drew Stuart of Nature Notes; Musician Steve Gunn

Drew Stuart (Bob Anderson)

Drew Stuart

For the first half of the show, Diana Nguyen speaks to Drew Stuart.

Stuart is the producer for the Marfa Public Radio series “Nature Notes” and was one of the first employees at the station.

After living in Alpine for several years, he moved to Dell City in 2009, where he writes remotely for the station.

They discuss the early days at Marfa Public Radio, his life in Dell City, and his writing.

Earlier this year, Stuart was awarded an environmental reporting award from the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The Unseen In Between (Matador, 2019)

Steve Gunn

Later, Elise Pepple talks to musician Steve Gunn.

They spoke in January when he was in Marfa to kick off the tour for his fourth album, The Unseen In Between, also released that month.

This week, Gunn released two new singles — “Be still Moon” and “Shrunken Heads.”

They discuss Gunn’s most recent record and inspirations, life on the road, and his connection to Marfa.

Thursday, Jun 13, 2019:
Border Journalists Alfredo Corchado And Angela Kocherga; Writer Toni Jensen On Gun Violence, Fracking, And Sex Trafficking

Alfredo Corchado (David Spuro), Angela Kocherga (Patty Aleman)

Alfredo Corchado and Angela Kocherga

Carlos Morales talks to journalists Alfredo Corchado and Angela Kocherga. They’ve both spent their life’s work covering the U.S.-Mexico border.

Alfredo Corchado is the border correspondent for the Dallas Morning News and is the author of Midnight in Mexico and Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican-American Migration.

Angela Kocherga is a journalist who’s worked in radio, tv, and print. She’s currently covering the border for the Albuquerque Journal.

They discuss their work as journalists, immigration policy, and the roots of the mass migration from Central America.

Toni Jensen (Sophia Spirlock)

Toni Jensen

For the second part of the show, Rachel Monroe talks to Lannan writer-in-residence Toni Jensen.

They talk about Carry, Jensen’s forthcoming memoir-in-essays about gun violence. They also discuss Cowboyistan, Jensen’s forthcoming fictional novel that looks at the links between fracking and sex trafficking.

Jensen currently teaches at the University of Arkansas and at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

She will read at the Crowley Theater on Sunday, June 16 at 6 pm.

Thursday, Jun 6, 2019:
Challenges To Dying In The Big Bend; David Shook On Translation

Hospice of the Big Bend closed its doors in 1997 due to a lack of funding. (Courtesy of former Executive Director Marvie Burton)

Suzanne Dungan & Marvie Burton

On this episode, reporter Sally Beauvais talks to Marfa resident Suzanne Dungan and Marvie Burton, the former director of Hospice of the Big Bend.

They discuss the lack of access to end-of-life care in the region and the challenges of providing these services in Far West Texas.

Suzanne found out about the lack of resources first hand when her husband, Tom Dungan, relocated to Santa Fe for care.

That’s the reason she asked West Texas Wonders — a Marfa Public Radio journalism initiative — why there’s no hospice in the Big Bend when Medicaid and Medicare pay for those services.

Beauvais’ original story, reported at the end of 2018, can be found here.

David Shook (Nina Subin)

David Shook

In the second half of the show, Laura Copelin talks to poet, translator, and editor David Shook. They are currently in Marfa as a Lannan writer-in-residence.

In 2013, Shook founded the nonprofit publishing house Phoneme Media, editing over 30 books translated from 25 languages during their five years there.

A longterm resident of California, Shook currently lives in Iraq, where they are Artist in Residence at Kashkul, an arts and research collaborative at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani.

On Sunday, June 9th at 6 pm, Agave Festival Marfa and the Lannan Foundation will present a reading with Shook.

Thursday, May 30, 2019:
David Keller On The History Of Pinto Canyon; Josh T. Franco On La Virgen De Guadalupe’s Appearance In Marfa

On this episode, Diana Nguyen talks to archaeologist David Keller about his latest book, In The Shadow Of The Chinatis: A History of Pinto Canyon in the Big Bend. Keller dives into the history of the early ranchers who settled the area and examines the forces that changed the land’s use over time.

As part of Agave Festival, Keller will read from his book at 6 pm on Tuesday, June 4th at the Crowley Theater.

Later, Elise Pepple talks to Josh T. Franco. He grew up in West Texas and is an artist and the National Collector at the Archives of American Art.

Franco talks about the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Marfa in the nineties and the altar that commemorates the sighting located at the home of Ester Sanchez. In the conversation, he unpacks the altar’s relationship to the works of Donald Judd.

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Thursday, May 23, 2019:
Borderland Collective Collaborates With Blackwell School Alliance; Emily Esfahani Smith On Living a Meaningful Life

Elise Pepple talks to Borderland Collective’s Jason Reed and Mark Menjivar. The organization is a long-term art and education project that utilizes collaborations between artists, educators, youth, and community members to engage complex issues and build space for diverse perspectives, meaningful dialogue, and modes of creation and reflection.

Reed and Menjivar recently collaborated with the Blackwell School Alliance — an organization that preserves the history of the once-segregated school for Mexican American children in Marfa.

The public art project combines oral history and archival photos that can be seen on buildings around Marfa for the rest of the year.

You can find more about the project here, and hear stories at the Blackwell School Alliance SoundCloud. A Blackwell newspaper can be picked up at Marfa Public Radio. 

Later in the program, Pepple talks to writer Emily Esfahani Smith. She writes about culture, psychology, and relationships. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and elsewhere. She’s the author of The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters.

They discuss the four pillars of a meaningful life.

Thursday, May 16, 2019:
Remembering Wile Quintana & Natalie Diaz On Poetry, Love, and Language

On this episode, we wanted to celebrate former co-host of “Una Hora Con Primo,” Wile Quintana, who died earlier this month at 78. We’re featuring a conversation he had with former Marfa Public Radio intern Mia Warren in 2015. They talk about what it was like to grow up in Marfa in the forties and fifties, and how Quintana became an amateur historian. 

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