• Meet Montana poet laureate Tami Haaland

    BY BRIAN D’AMBROSIO

    Montana’s poet laureate Tami Haaland is on a mission to mend the misunderstanding of poetry.

    Poetry is no mystical calling. It doesn’t need to be analytical, critical or scientific.

    It only needs to be expressive.

    “I tell people that it’s OK to hate poetry,” Haaland said. “A lot of people think they can’t understand it – and many times they can’t. But there are many kinds of fiction that are really difficult to read as well. So, it’s really a matter of giving poetry a longer chance, sticking with it, and evaluating what’s going on and whose talking. From a writing standpoint, it is about expression – and we can all do it.”

    Read more of Haaland’s poems at her Montana Arts Council page.

    To read the rest of D’Ambrosio’s story about Tami, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more Montana all year, subscribe now.

    Goldeye, Vole

    By TAMI HAALAND

    I say sweep of prairie

    or curve of sandstone,

    but it doesn’t come close

    to this language of dry wind

    and deer prints, blue racer

    and sage, its punctuation

    white quartz and bone.

    I learned mounds of

    Mayflowers, needle grass

    on ankles, the occasional

    sweet pea before I knew

    words like perspective or

    travesty or the permanence

    of loss. My tongue spoke

    obsidian, red agate,

    arrowhead. I stepped

    through tipi rings, leaped

    buffalo grass and puff ball

    to petrified clam,

    jawbone of fox, flint,

    blue lichen gayfeather,

    goldeye, vole—speak to me,

    my prairie darling, sing me

    that song you know.

    “Goldeye, Vole,” taken from Breath in Every Room Story Line Press, 2001. ©Tami Haaland. Poem reprinted by permission of Tami Haaland.

    A Colander of Barley

    BY TAMI HAALAND

    The smell, once water has rinsed it,

    is like a field of ripe grain, or the grain held

    in a truck, and if you climb the steel side,

    one foot lodged on the hubcap, the other

    on the wheel, and pull your body upward,

    your hands holding to tarp hooks, and lift toes

    onto the rim of the truck box, rest your ribs

    against the side, you will see beetles

    and grasshoppers among the hulled kernels.

    Water stirs and resurrects harvest dust:

    sun beating on abundance, the moist heat

    of grain collected in steel, hands

    plunging and lifting, the grain spilling back.

    “A Colander of Barley” from When We Wake in the Night by Tami Haaland, ©2012 WordTech Editions, Cincinnati, Ohio. Poem reprinted by permission of Tami Haaland and the publisher.