Tami Haaland

Gov. Steve Bullock appointed Tami Haaland this week as Montana's poet laureate. Haaland will serve through Aug. 1, 2015.

On her first official day as Montana’s poet laureate, Tami Haaland was unpacking from a camping trip and preparing to take her son Nathan to Missoula for football practice at the University of Montana.

Haaland has been juggling duties since she became a professor in the English department at Montana State University Billings in 1994.

In addition to teaching a full load at MSUB, Haaland has taught creative writing at the Montana Women’s Prison since 2008 and in 2012, she helped launch a writing project at McKinley Elementary School through the Arts Without Boundaries program.

In her spare time, Haaland published two books of poetry, “Breath in Every Room,” which won the Nicholas Roerich Prize from Story Line Press, and “When We Wake in the Night,” a finalist for the May Swenson Award. She has also been involved in slam poetry events in Billings for several years.

Haaland said she is more comfortable promoting poetry and the work of other poets instead of herself. Part of her duties will be to create a Montana speaker’s bureau program through Humanities Montana.

“We have so many talented people in this state. I think it is just so important to let people know,” Haaland said.

Haaland said her email inbox was full Thursday of congratulations and at least one offer — to come speak at the Helena Public Library.

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Haaland, who will serve as Montana’s poet laureate through Aug 1, 2015, was nominated for the honor by Montana’s first poet laureate, Sandra Alcosser.

“With heart and mind, she serves the world of poetry and its followers well,” Alcosser said of Haaland.

Gov. Steve Bullock made the appointment on Tuesday and the announcement was made public Thursday. Haaland took over from the previous poet laureate Sheryl Noethe, who helped Haaland set up the writing program last fall at McKinley Elementary.

In making the announcement, Bullock said he hopes to work with Haaland to expand youth literary programs. Haaland also said she’s interested in providing more opportunities for young people to get involved in creative writing.

“Tami will be a great advocate and representative for all of Montana’s creative community,” Bullock said.

Haaland was born on the Hi-Line where her family farmed south of Inverness. She follows other Montana poet laureates, including Greg Pape and Henry Real Bird. Although the title of poet laureate is an honor that doesn't come with a monetary award, Haaland said was humbled by it and happy to serve.

“The object is to promote poetry and try to share poetry with the state in whatever way seems best,” Haaland said. “It is a chance for me to be of service.”

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Entertainment Reporter

Jaci Webb covers entertainment for The Billings Gazette.