Steve Bullock Names Two as Montana Poet Laureates

Steve Bullock, Montana governor and Democratic U.S. Presidential candidate, named two women to be Montana poets laureate.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock
Montana Governor Steve Bullock

Mandy Smoker Broaddus and Melissa Kwasny will serve joint two-year terms through 2021.

OK, so what does Montana’s poet laureate do?

According to the Montana Arts Council, the role entails “advancing and supporting the poetic arts.”

For Lowell Jaeger, Montana’s most recent poet laureate, this meant hosting poetry events across the Treasure State. According to Jaeger’s Facebook page, he hosted 148 events in his two years as poet laureate.

Thinking about applying for the gig?

Well, to be eligible to serve as Montana poet laureate, you must live in Montana. And you have to be a resident for at least a year.

Treasure State’s Bejeweled Literary History

Montana has a deep and interesting literary history.

Writer Ivan Doig grew up in Big Sky Country. In fact, a stretch of U.S. 89 in Montana is named after Doig.

Cover of Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It
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And though he was born in Michigan and lived his later years in Arizona, author and poet Jim Harrison spent substantial time in Montana. Some of his most popular stories, including Legends of the Fall (paid link), are set in the state.

Also, Harrison appears in a Montana episode of the show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.

Then there’s Norman Maclean, whose A River Runs Through It and Other Stories (paid link) relays the author’s experience growing up in rugged, early 20th century Montana.

And Michael Punke moved to Montana in the 1990s. He’s the author of The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge (paid link), on which the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Revenant is based. Also, Punke wrote a book on the deadliest underground hard rock mining disaster in U.S. history.

That would be the Granite Mountain/Speculator Mine disaster that killed 168 miners in Butte, MT, on June 8, 1917. Punke’s book on the event is Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917 (paid link).

What about you, do you have a favorite writer or book with a Montana connection? Share it in the comments.


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