Montana is defined by its diverse landscape, ranging from the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains. Its tourist website calls it “untamed, wild, and natural. “ It is only fitting that this state would have a poet laureate that not only understands this, but also has deep ties to the state. Tami Haaland, appointed Montana State’s poet laureate in 2013, believes that poetry should be accessible to everyone, “a self-choice not to be feared.” She will serve as poet laureate through August 1, 2015.
Tami Haaland’s Ties to the State
Montana has been Tami Haaland’s home for most of her life. She was born on the Hi-Line where her family farmed south of Inverness near the Marias River. Both sets of her grandparents lived in the area as well; prior to this, her great-grandfather worked in the Butte mines. Due to these long ties to the state, she has been particularly interested in researching Montana’s literary heritage, its poetry especially. For the prior ten years to receiving the honor of being elected state poet laureate, she presented at numerous book festivals and wrote a variety of essays for Drumlummon Views, the State of the Arts News, Stone’s Throw Magazine, local newspapers, and various anthologies.
Tami Haaland’s Poetry
Tami Haaland tends to find her inspiration walking along the Rimrocks, or the “Rims,” a geological sandstone outside her neighborhood. The time “away from the world” allows her to organize and spend time analyzing her thoughts so that she can choose the right wording for the message she is trying to get across. She makes an effort to always carry a notebook with her so when motivation strikes, she is prepared. Tami Haaland says, “There is something about rhythmic activity that’s helpful in thinking things through. When I walk, I may carry a poem around in my head, thinking about what lines shouldn’t be there. I’ll make those decisions about dropping a line when I’m out walking.”
Dana Gioia, former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, says, “Tami Haaland’s poems may begin in the quotidian details of domestic life, but they unfold into moments of quiet epiphany. She sets her poems in the austere landscape and small towns of the Western Mountain States, but her real subject is the human heart and mind.” If this speaks to you, get inspired by the rich landscape in your own backyard and enter our poetry contest!