Did you know that Montana has its own poet laureate? Created by the state legislature in 2005, the Montana Poet Laureate position honors a citizen poet of exceptional talent and accomplishment, and encourages appreciation of poetry and literary life in Montana.
The primary duty of the Poet Laureate is to promote the art of poetry among the people–each laureate in his/her own way, by undertaking projects and programs that promote the art of poetry and make poetry more accessible to people in their everyday lives. The position is honorary and each laureate serves for two years.
In 2005, Sandra Alcosser became our first Montana Poet Laureate. Sandra is an acclaimed poet, teacher and “a gentle warrior for nature and conservation efforts.” She is committed to creating a model for how cultural institutions such as libraries and zoos can collaborate to promote empathic thinking in society. “Poetry calls into question what it means to be human,” says Alcosser. As poet laureate, she inspired her audiences to become engaged with the natural world.
Greg Pape was selected as the second Poet Laureate in 2007. Greg, a creative writing professor at University of Montana, Missoula, traveled the state (often the most rural areas) reading and ‘demystifying’ poetry. Pape says about poetry:”It’s simply a sustained use of language as art–nothing more. Art and poetry helps us live our lives, and everybody is a potential poet, anybody can do art.”
Henry Real Bird was selected in 2009 and will serve into the summer of 2011. Henry Real Bird is a rancher and educator, a cowboy, and member of the True Crow Nation. He still speaks Crow as his primary language and often speaks Crow when he visits school children. As Poet Laureate, Henry Real Bird took a 415-mile horseback trip halfway across the state, handing out books of poetry along the way.
The Bozeman community has welcomed all three Poets Laureate to the Bozeman Public Library where they shared their poetry, their ideas about poetry, and conducted poetry writing workshops.
April is National Poetry Month. If you are a Montana resident, it’s a good time to nominate our next Poet Laureate. The deadline is April 29, 2011. The process is outlined on this Montana Arts Council website. http://art.mt.gov/resources/resources_plposition.asp