Filled up on local beer and food, Billings residents packed into a partially finished downtown coffee house for an evening of award-winning poetry.
At the Pulitzer Out Loud event, about a dozen readers presented works from winners of the awards in their own meters and styles. The Friday gathering was the first in a string of events to celebrate 100 years of Pulitzer prizes.
The prize is named for 19th century newspaper mogul Joseph Pulitzer, who established the awards in his will. The Pulitzer Prize has become one of the most prestigious awards in arts and journalism.
Humanities Montana is sponsoring the events in Billings. Anna Paige, who was helping to get Friday's event organized, said that the Pulitzer Out Loud selections represent the diversity of work that has been recognized.
Paige gave a reading as well from Anne Sexton, the 1967 Pulitzer winner. It was Sexton's raw femininity and honest work that drew Paige to the poet.
"The voice that she shared is so big and important," Paige said.
The presenters included authors, poets, a former mayor and professors. The selections spanned the century of Pulitzer winners, including Carl Sandburg, who won one of the earliest awards, to Tracy K. Smith, who won in 2012.
Smith's lyrical ode to David Bowie, "Life On Mars," was read by Ashley Warren. Corbin Howard read two selections by Robert Frost, whom Howard said has been an all-time favorite. Frost was a repeat winner, receiving the awards in 1924, 1931, 1937 and 1943.
Another modern winner's poetry was read by local writer and poet Cara Chamberlain. She presented the deeply personal works of Sharon Olds, whose collection, "Stag's Leap," examines topics of love, divorce and their effects. Olds won the Pulitzer in 2013.
Pulitzer Out Loud was held at the site of MoAv Coffee House. Bare sheet rock, uneven paint and construction tools surrounded the crowd in the historic business space.
MoAv co-owner Jeff Hosa said that they hope to open to the public in April.
The hors d'oeuvres themselves were also odes to poetry and were inspired by selected works. A plate of mini caramelized onion quiches were inspired by the poem "Market Women's Cries," by Jonathan Swift, for example.
The Pulitzer Price 100-year celebration will continue until May. A list of events can be found here.