Liz’s Weekend Poetry Series: Montana’s New Poet Laureate

by lizard

On Tuesday Governor Schweitzer named Sheryl Noethe as Montana’s Poet Laureate:

Noethe is the author of four books and the artistic director of the Missoula Writing Collaborative. She has won the Missoula Cultural Achievement Award, the William Stafford Prize Best Book of Poetry and the Montana Arts Council Literature Fellowship.

As poet laureate, Noethe will encourage the appreciation of poetry and literature in Montana with readings and presentations across the state.

Schweitzer made the appointment on Tuesday. He said in a letter to Noethe that he was struck by her statement that a few words from an adult can shape a child’s idea of who they are and who they can become.

Noethe is a great choice for Montana poet laureate. Cultivating an appreciation for poetry in young kids is a tremendously important job; something the Missoula Writing Collaborative with Noethe at the helm does very well.

The poem I picked for this week’s LWPS comes from Noethe’s collection of poems, As Is. Congratulations Sheryl!


For Nancy McCulloch

When the fourth graders begin writing
I wait in fear and deep humility
for the poetry that opens my sleeping third eye,
whispers from God; answers to unspoken hope,
messages from trees, unrealized wishes,
the small thing that never seemed to matter,
the way a child and a rat love one another,
the green force that drives the blossom.

The answer, I surmise, has to be reincarnation:
little Ezra Pounds with big ears roping cattle in Idaho,
four-foot tall girls in braids, already pillars of Haiku,
joining Master Basho; and also Issa.
T.S. Eliot unawares, in a soccer jersey,
William Carlos Williams chewing on his pencil,
an unkempt Dylan Thomas jumping hills on a yellow dirt bike,
John Berryman tipsy on a skateboard. Sylvia Plath
looks over our heads and mutters to herself.

I try not to plead, or badger, but
What did you mean by that line?
Tell me, how did you think of it,
where did it come from?
How did you ever think of anything like that?
Do you know what it’s called, what you did?

Th old souls, with their fruit-leather breath
and questionable hygiene, sweat lines
beneath baseball caps
shrug, shake their heads, push up their glasses, mumble
I Dunno.

—Sheryl Noethe

(image from here)

  1. congratulations to the state of montana for selecting such an excellent artist for this award. ms noethe’s work with the schoolkids of montana will plant many seeds which will flourish long after we have all gone.

  2. groucho

    Me and my mom watch the moon together
    On days it does not rain
    On warm nights
    Nobody else is with us but the stars

    –that’s Kate, that’s a kid poem, courtesy of Sheryl Noethe . . . over the last decade and a half thousands of kids have written thousands of poems celebrating the miracle of being alive . . . poetry isn’t news, poems have no market value, poets . . . no political clout, but the power of art is that it reminds of how fragile and miraculous our lives are, it shows us what we have in common: loves and fears . . . it reminds us we’re never alone . . . that’s real power where it matters in the mind (the heart?) of the individual.

    Congratulations, Sheryl Noethe!

  3. A beautiful poem shedding light on a well deserved honor. Congratulations to Noethe. Nurture the voices of children, give them pens and paper, a keyboard!

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