Wyoming Arts Council

Montana names Henry Real Bird as new poet laureate

A rancher, former rodeo cowboy and neighbor is Montana’s newest poet laureate. Gov. Brian Schweitzer appointed Henry Real Bird of Garryowen as the state’s third poet laureate, succeeding Greg Pape, whose term expired.

The governor was effusive in his praise in naming Real Bird to this position: “Our heritage, our lives and our way of life in this great state are often expressed through poetry, and the work of Henry Real Bird brings so much of Montana to life. This is a unique opportunity to bring poetry to the people of Montana.”

The Montana Legislature created the position of poet laureate in 2005 to recognize a citizen poet of exceptional talent and accomplishment. The assignment raises awareness of poetry and the literary arts across the state in presentations and by reading poetry to live audiences.

Real Bird lives on the O-W Ranch in Big Horn County with his wife and children. In addition to his writing and ranching, he raises champion bucking horses. He has published a dozen children’s books and a poetry book, “Where Shadows are Born”, and has recorded a CD, “Rivers of Horse.” He was featured in the award-winning documentary “Why the Cowboy Sings” and won the Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. He has a bachelor’s degree from Montana State University and a master’s from Eastern Montana College (now Montana State University Billings). Here’s a short sample:

Hoola Hand

Today as I let go, a hoola hand into the dawn
Among silhouetted horse heads, held by a rope corral
But then, that day was many winters ago
To good horses you are drawn
I have asked that you ride the best
Of beautiful words to create images
Of life’s reflections filled with feelings of reality
Winters many may you ride the best.
As sunlight moved in the wind
Among the shadow of an ash tree
I gave the sweat lodge a drink
In the absence of memory
An ole’ feeling sprouts
In the charred remains of life
It is customary
That I have no doubts
Wishful thoughts and prayers through dreams strive
For peace in our souls
May you ride the best
Through the four different grounds
Upon our sacred mother earth.

Henry Real Bird

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