Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday Muse: Montana's New Poet Laureate

When people . . . ask what a poem is, I tell them
to think of it as a little story, or a picture, or a mood even,
delivered in a small space. That's it. Little nuggets of information.
~ Michael Earl Craig, Bookslut Interview

Michael Earl Craig ("Earl") is Montana's Poet Laureate. His appointment to the honorary, unpaid position was announced October 23, 2015. Craig succeeds Tami Haaland, who served from 2013 to 2015.

For an overview of the two-year post, see my profile of Henry Real Bird, Montana's state poet from 2009 through 2011.

According to writer Melissa Mylchreest, Craig intends during his tenure to promote poetry to rural towns, small schools, prisons, and other "often overlooked" places in Montana.

* * * *

Montana's sixth Poet Laureate, Michael Earl Craig is the author of the full-length collections Talkativeness (Wave Books, 2014), Thin Kimono (Wave Books, 2010), finalist for a 2010 Believer Poetry Award; Yes, Master (Fence Books, 2006; available through resellers, the publisher, and SPD),  finalist for 2006 ColdFront "Best Book of New Poetry" and "Best Second Book" awards; and Can You Relax in My House (Fence Books, 2002), his debut collection. In addition, he has published a chapbook, Jombang Jet (Factory Hollow Press, 2012).

Craig's poems have been in The Believer (Issue 59, January 2009), Bat City ReviewCirque JournalCutBank Literary Magazine, Dunes Review, Entropy, GrantaIowa Review, Jubilat, PlumePoetry, Provincetown Arts, So and So Magazine, TriQuarterlyVerse, and Volta blog, among many other literary periodicals, both online and in print. His work also has appeared in the New American Poetry Series of the Poetry Society of America, and in Cirque: A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim ("Bear Photo" and "Bluebirds"; 2015). Craig's Touch My Omelet was the second book in the bear parade series. Some of Craig's poems have been translated into Dutch and Chinese.

Spare, often casual-seeming, and enormously diverse, Craig's poems are notable for their end-stopped lines and details and for their indelible, often odd-ball images:

I thought the robin was playing drunk
but it turned out he was a hunchback with rheumatoid arthritis. 
He hobbled about the courtyard dragging his bad foot. [. . .}
~ from "The Prophet" in Talkativeness

It seems there's always an icicle
or pair of them
hanging, over an infant,

a sleeping newborn infant, [. . .]
~ from "Why Have I Returned to New England"

Someone is sitting on a tall stool before me.

I have just carefully cut
my best friend's wife's bangs.

My watch feels like a small corpse on my wrist tonight.
~ "Wild for the Lord"

When I come home from work it looks
as if a tortoise has trashed my apartment.
Everything has been knocked over just so. [. . . .]
~ from "Glass of Wine" in Talkativeness

Among anthologies that include Craig's poems are The Best American Poetry 2014 ("The Helmet"; Scribner, 2014), Poems About Horses (Everyman's Library, 2009), and Isn't It Romantic (2004). Craig also is included in Eat Our Words: . . . Montana Writers' Cookbook (Montana Committee for the Humanities/Farcountry Press, 2005).

Craig works as a farrier (he shoes horses) in rural Montana. He gives readings throughout the United States and participates in book and other literary festivals.


Photo Credit: Montana Arts Council

All Poetry Excerpts © Michael Earl Craig

Michael Earl Craig Profiles Online: Montana Arts Council, Poetry Foundation

Michael Earl Craig Poems Online: "This Is How an Anvil Comes to You", "Night Visit", "In the Road", "When It's Time", "The Helmet", "The Man", "March", "I Rattled Off to Work Today", "Curriculum Vitae", and "Bluebirds", All at Montana Arts Council; "Talkativeness", "Emotional Music", and "Shave Your Beard", All at Wave Books Page for Talkativeness; "Advice for Horsemen", "In a Grove", "Night Nurse", and "Winter", All at Poetry Foundation; "The Evening News", "Emotional Music", "Primitive Men", and "The Prophet", All at Bomb Magazine; "Why Have I Returned to New England" at Poetry Society of America; "Glass of Vodka", "Untitled", "Untitled", "Master Chang and Student", "Ways of Dealing", and "Seahorse" (Touch My Omelet), All at bear parade; "Quick Sketch of a Bullet", "Winter", "Monumental Painting", and "Talkativeness", All at Poets & Writers (Audio Available); "Winter", "Group Therapy", and "Wild for the Lord", All at Counterpunch; "Tomatoes Disrespect Us", "Tea", "Poem for Manda", and "In a Grove", All at Entropy Magazine; "This I Believe" at The Nervous Breakdown; 'The More We Think About It" at Granta Magazine; "Poetry that Seeks to Solve Riddles and Placate the Masses" at TriQuarterly; "The Conscious Fruit Fly" and "Idea for a Screenplay", Both at Plume; "Night Visit" at The Write Question Blog; "The Cinematographer, A 42-Year-Old Man Named Miyagawa, Aimed His Camera Directly at the Sun, Which At First Probably Seemed Like a Bad Idea" and "Sleepwalking Through the Mekong", Both at The White Review; "A Gorgeous Hotel, in a Grand City" at Muumuu House; "Humans", "Games in the Sand", and "Voted Best Legs, Class of '78", All at Not Nostrums; "In the Januaried Mountains" and "Special", Both at Jubilat; "Honestly", "Upon Our Return", and "Bubbles Came from Their Noses", All at Fou Magazine; "Perhaps You See Where I Am Heading" (Videopoem by Dalton Brink, Performed by Craig) at Theory Magazine (Also see Lief Haven Martinson Reading); "The Bad Clown" at The Beauty Blog; "Night Nurse" at Poetry Out Loud; "Autobiography" at Joshua Michael Stewart Site; "They Will Sew the Blue Sail" at The Volta; "Something That Happened Today" at Dish; "A Progression of Scents" from Poems About Horses on GoogleBooks; "It" at Papers for the Border Blog; "Perhaps You See Where I Am Heading" at Wag's Revue

Video of Michael Earl Craig Reading at Gallery B4S (2010) at YouTube

Several recordings of Michael Earl Craig poems ("Sleepwaking Through the Mekong", "Group Therapy", "Jim", and "Wild for the Lord", are available at PennSound.

Michael Earl Craig on Tumblr

Melissa Mylchreest, "Seeing Things: Michael Earl Craig Keeps One Foot in the Poet World", Missoula Independent, November 5, 2015

KUFM (Montana Public Radio), "Michael Earl Craig, (not a cowboy) poet and farrier", 2012 (PRX Audio)

John W. Marshall, "It's Not About About: An Interview with Poet/Farrier Michael Earl Craig", NW Book Lovers, May 11, 2011

Zachary Schomburg, "The Rolls Should Be Warm: An Interview with Michael Earl Craig", HTML Giant

Andrew James Weatherhead, "An Interview with Michael Earl Craig", Bookslut, January 2011

Melissa Burke, "'Talkativeness' by Michael Earl Craig", Review, The Volta Blog, July 9, 2014

Kyle Harvey, "'Talkativeness' by Michael Earl Craig", Review, Heavy Feather Review, September 4, 2014

John Deming, "'Yes, Master'", ColdFront, November 3, 2006

Ted Powers, "'Jombang Jet' by Michael Earl Craig", Review, Flying Object 

David Sewell, "'Thin Kimono'", Review, ColdFront, December 20, 2010

Paul Scott Stanfield, "'Talkativeness'", Review, Ploughshares Blog, August 22, 2014

Karen Wood, "'Thin Kimono'", Review, Front Porch Journal, Issue 160

Talkativeness at GoogleBooks

Yes, Master at GoogleBooks

Believer Poetry Award 2010 Finalist List

Factory Hollow Press (Factory Hollow Press Page for Michael Earl Craig)

Farcountry Press

Fence Books (Fence/Fence Books on FaceBook) See the page for Michael Earl Craig.

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