Montana Poet Laureate

Michael Earl Craig

Photo of Michael Earl Craig

Michael Earl Craig, or "Earl," is a farrier who lives just outside of Livingston with his wife, Susan, a mule and a dog. Mr. Craig has an antiquated lifestyle, preferring to use non-electric tools - manual typewriters, old-fashioned bicycles, anvil and hammer, his hands. He personifies rural values in that he makes his living from working with horses, but oddly - and fortunately for us - he is also one of the preeminent poets of our day. Mr. Craig is an intellectual who has been recognized internationally for his impressive creative talents.

Published in the most contemporary and prestigious of presses (Wave Books, Fence and Knopf), Mr. Craig regularly gets requests for his work from journals like Poetry, The Believer, TriQuarterly Review and the journal of the Poetry Society of America. His poems have been translated into Dutch and Chinese, and he has been invited to read in cities all over the country as well as asked to serve as a visiting writer at various universities. M r. Craig was a panelist for the Elk River Writer's Workshop and has been a presenter at both the High Plains BookFest in Billings and Montana Festival of the Book in Missoula. He is widely respected in both the eastern and western parts of our state as a poet of outstanding merit. More importantly, Mr. Craig is considered by all who have had the pleasure of studying with him to be a kind, generous and inspiring teacher of poetry.

Mr. Craig’s first book, Can You Relax in My House, was published in 2002. Since that time he has published three more books (Yes, Master; Thin Kimono; Talkativeness), a chapbook (Jombang Jet) and had numerous poems published in anthologies and poetry journals. Comparing his work to that of Mark Twain and Will Rogers, Matthew Zapruder of University of California Riverside writes of Craig’s poems that they “bring something new to American literature. The landscape of his poetry is … the American West: it is full of mountains, giant weather, horse, farms, small town life, and so on. But these elements, so familiar to our imagination, are reconfigured and skewed (albeit lovingly) into odd, even at times absurdist and surreal, configurations.”

In Livingston Mr. Craig has volunteered at Park High since 2007, helping English teacher Kelly Dick with his creative writing classes. The many students Mr. Craig has mentored over the years stop him in the streets to show off their poetry notebooks. They want to share how poetry has become an active part of their lives.

“He represents a perfect combination of so many of the things poetry exists to do: honor humanity, honor place and time, honor the dead, console the living, entertain us, delight us, and lend us hopes and dreams.”
-Dara Wier, University of Massachusetts MFA for Poets and Writers; editor and publisher, Factory Hollow Press

Biography drawn from the nomination letter of Karin Schalm, the Creative Writing Program Coordinator at the University of Montana.

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