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Montana’s New Poet Laureate

Gov. Brian Schweitzer has named Greg Pape to succeed Sandra Alcosser as the Montana Poet Laureate. Alcosser was the first state poet laureate under the law signed in 1995. She served a two year term. Pape is from Stevensville and Alcosser was from Florence. Okay, enough with Bitterroot poets! (kidding) Pape is a creative writing prof at UM and has been widely published. He is the recipient of the Richard Hugo Memorial Poetry Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Edwin Ford Piper Poetry Award. His latest collection is “American Flamingo”.

Alcosser has this praise for her successor; “You want to be the poet’s friend, because he makes you cry and laugh, to share his shadow and nuanced eye as he bends above a small spider that walks inside the snow track of a deer—within the shadow of the poet, that spider pauses. In the manner of James Wright and Horace before him, Greg Pape celebrates the delicate and daily exchange living beings make with each other. This is a beautifully compassionate book.”

I can’t believe it took this long for Montana to get around to honoring our long tradition of wonderful poets. Okay, enough talk, here is a short sample of the poetry of Greg Pape.

From “Album”

My son has built a tent-cabin
in the front room and invited the dog.

He has constructed an imaginary machine,
with an invisible lever, for catching the fog.

Fallen clouds drifting through the valley
along the river bottom, up and over the lines

and folds and contours of the hills, coulees
and benches, combed by cottonwoods and pines,

breaking softly against the windows
like thought or breath, then passing on,

flowing, opaque body of air, and we are both
caught up in this elemental conversation

of house and fog. The fog got in the house,
he says. I am catching it with this.

(Poem: from “Album” by Greg Pape, from American Flamingo.
© Southern Illinois University Press.)

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One Response

  1. i hear a silent cry of anguished anger lurking just behind the calm…pain passed on from robinson jeffers, and an eye that peals the commonness away like onion skin, annie dillard’s gift to him of joy, to illuminate a saving beauty. greg’s childhood days on Captiva and hardassed youth on the beaches of redondo and blowing smoke bubbles on long nights in his freno trailer, filtered through a flyfishing father’s bitteroot days have produced a mellow poet with a rebel heart and a zen head.

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