Montana Arts Council

Montana's Poet Laureate, Chris La Tray


Chris La Tray Photo by Chris Chapman of Northland Studio Small


The Montana Arts Council is pleased to announce that Governor Greg Gianforte has named Chris La Tray of Frenchtown as Montana’s Poet Laureate for 2023-2024.

The author of two collections of poetry, One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays from the World at Large and Descended From a Travel-worn Satchel: Haiku & Haibun, Chris La Tray has established himself as a prominent voice among Montana’s poets. His debut collection, One-Sentence Journal, received multiple honors upon its release, including the 2018 Montana Book Award, the 2019 High Plains Book Award (Best First Book), and finalist for the 2019 High Plains Book Award (Best Book by Indigenous Writer). His third book, Becoming Little Shell, will be published in 2024 by Milkweed Editions.

“I’m excited to have this opportunity,” Chris commented after learning of his appointment. “I never considered myself a poet till other people started calling me one.” Speaking of his plans for the role, Chris noted his interest in getting to places that might be overlooked as venues for poetry. “I look forward to taking it on the road, out to all the tribal colleges. I just got a call from Wibaux. I’m stoked—Wibaux is practically North Dakota!” Chris also plans to continue working with Montana’s Office of Public Instruction and Humanities Montana as part of its Indian Education for All Initiative, educating Montanans about its history through the perspectives of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa and Métis cultures.

Raised in Frenchtown, Chris La Tray is a member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and his facility with words is not unique in his family; Chris’ Métis great-great-grandfather Mose served as an interpreter for the US Army, speaking at least six languages, and Chris is today an advocate for reviving Indigenous languages spoken in Montana. Prior to publication of his first book Chris was a contributing writer to the Missoula Independent and had published a fiction and nonfiction works in a number of publications. He maintains an online journal, An Irritable Métis, where, as in his poetry, he grapples with issues of cultural identity, the natural world, and where this place called Montana is going.

Chris assumes the mantle of Poet Laureate from a fellow Missoula valley writer, Mark Gibbons, whose tenure has included conducting a series of video interviews with fellow Montana poets and regular contributions to the Montana Arts Council’s publication State of the Arts. Chris will be the eleventh Montana Poet Laureate as he begins his two-year term.


Read Chris' first column as Montana's Poet Laureate in State of the Arts.

Tintype portrait of Chris La Tray by Chris Chapman of Northland Studio, Missoula



Montana's Past Poet Laureate, Mark Gibbons, reads work by Ed Lahey.

Montana celebrates the written and spoken word through the offices of our state's  Poet Laureate. Chosen every two years by the Governor from among qualified nominations made by Montana citizens, the Poet Laureate represents the arts through performance, contributions to our quarterly newspaper State of the Arts, teaching in schools, judging the annual Poetry Out Loud student recitation competition, and other avenues.


The position of Poet Laureate for the state of Montana is, strictly speaking, an honorary one. But it’s a post

which comes with responsibilities: “Advancing and supporting the poetic arts involves 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.”

Read more about Mark Gibbons



See Mark in conversation with esteemed poets in his web series "Poets In Montana," produced in collaboration with MCAT Community Media. Click here to view the series.

Mark Gibbons leading a session of Poets in Montana


Who is the Poet Laureate and what does the Poet Laureate do?

The position of Poet Laureate is an honorific one. Advancing and supporting the poetic arts involves 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.

Humanities Montana will invite the Poet Laureate to join its Speaker's Bureau program.

Who is eligible to be nominated Poet Laureate of Montana?

Anyone of the state of Montana may nominate a poet for the Poet Laureate position. Nominations for Montana's Poet Laureate will be considered for poets who meet the following eligibility requirements:

The poet must currently reside in Montana and have been a resident for at least one year. Montana Arts Council members, staff, or their immediate family or household are not eligible.

What is the Poet Laureate's term of service?

The term of service for Poet Laureate is two years. The award is honorific. A poet who has served as Poet Laureate may not be re-nominated.

What is the selection process for the Poet Laureate?

A panel drawn from members of the literary community select finalists from among the nominations. The finalists are submitted to the Montana Arts Council board for review and approval. The Poet Laureate of Montana is then chosen by the Governor from among these nominees during the summer.

How will Poet Laureate nominations be evaluated?

The Poet Laureate is chosen on the basis of three criteria:

  • Artistic excellence and achievement
  • Ongoing contributions to the cultural community
  • Worthiness of statewide recognition


Montana Poet Laureate Guidelines

Montana's current Poet Laureate: Mark Gibbons

Past Montana Poets Laureate


Poem in top banner: "Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg," by Richard Hugo


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