Bigfork’s Jaeger named Montana’s poet laureate

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Lowell Jaeger in his office at Flathead Valley Community College. (Hungry Horse News file photo)

Accomplished Bigfork poet and longtime Flathead Valley Community College professor Lowell Jaeger has been selected as Montana’s seventh poet laureate, Gov. Steve Bullock announced on Friday.

Jaeger will assume the honorific position Aug. 1 and begin a two-year term.

“For me, personally, it’s huge,” Jaeger said. “It’s a validation of a lifetime’s work.”

The Wisconsin native has had a highly decorated career, winning a number of awards, including the Governor’s Humanities Award in 2010. He has earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council, and is a past recipient of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize. Jaeger has authored seven collections of poems, including last year’s “Or Maybe I Drift Off Alone,” and is the founding editor of Many Voices Press.

Jaeger was informed of his selection as poet laureate last week and was already outlining his plan to spread his passion around the state.

“Poetry is such, in some ways, a strange art form, like opera or ballet,” Jaeger said. “A lot of people are not well-informed about what it means, so I see my job as poet laureate is informing people and bringing poetry to some other people.

“Poetry is the voice of what it is to be human … What’s there is important to everyone.”

Being poet laureate comes with significant latitude and few defined responsibilities. The poet’s obligation, according to the Montana Arts Council, is “advancing and supporting the poetic arts ... reaching out to and beyond the art and literary communities in Montana to promote the appreciation of poetry as an ancient and ongoing form of expression.”

“It’s purposely meant to be a very personal interpretation for the poet laureate for how to take their enthusiasm and their passion into the community,” Cinda Holt, the art council’s interim co-director, said.

Jaeger plans to start a program called “Poetry 101,” holding 101 poetry events during his two-year term. He also intends to promote the arts programs at FVCC, where he has worked since 1983.

“I am a real cheerleader for FVCC,” he said. “Anything I can do bring honor and attention I’m going to do. They’ve been a great supporter of the arts. Arts are never ignored and I think (FVCC President) Jane Karas has been a great champion that way.”

The poet laureate is an unpaid position, created in 2005. The arts council accepts nominations from the public and selects three finalists for the governor’s desk. Jaeger has been nominated several times and his selection this time was based on a 2015 nomination from Constance Hitchcock, a business professor at FVCC.

Jaeger will take over for Michael Earl Craig, who was named poet laureate in 2015.

For more information, visit art.mt.gov/poet_laureate.

Entertainment editor Andy Viano can be reached at (406) 758-4439 or aviano@dailyinterlake.com.

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