Montana Poet Laureate Lowell Jaeger was the featured artist during the Sanders County Arts Council’s fifth event of its Tapestry Performing Arts Season for 2018-19.
Bunkhouse Beans and Bacon was held last Saturday, March 9, at VFW Post 2896 in Thompson Falls.
This event was presented to honor the literary arts. Jaeger shared his poetry and that of others, combined with his commentary, storytelling and humor. Tapestry was sponsored, in part, by Humanities Montana, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to show how the humanities — history, civics, ethics, politics, literature and language — can foster inquiry and stimulate civil and informed conversations about the human experience.
Tapestry and other Sanders County Arts Council events are also made possible, in part, by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Support is also provided by Art Works, National Endowment for the Arts, Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) and numerous Sanders County businesses.
Enhancing the Tapestry event were local musicians Rudi Boukal, Zach Whipple-Kilmer, Dave and Deb Oliver, and Doug Grimm. The evening began with a pulled pork dinner. During the evening, Sanders County Arts Council staff raffled four color portrait caricatures by local artist Steve Eberhardt.
JAEGER, WHO lives in Kalispell, is about 19 months into his two-year stint as Montana’s poet laureate. He believes that poetry can be employed in a variety of ways, and can stimulate thoughtful reflection and discussion.
During his presentation, Jaeger indicated he had to “bide his time” before becoming Montana poet laureate — appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock. He had been nominated for the honor six previous times, and now he is the seventh poet laureate for the state.
He related how he would get a call from the governor’s office — for each of six years — saying he had not been chosen as poet laureate. When the call came this time, he expected the same information. However, he was told the honor had been bestowed upon him.
“That’s how I got here today,” Jaeger told a capacity crowd of about 85 people who attended Bunkhouse Beans and Bacon.
He pledged to himself to attend 101 events during a two-year period. With five months yet to go, his current count is 135.
EARLY IN the evening, Jaeger injected a bit of humor.
“You don’t want to confess to being a poet,” he said. “People tend to take two steps back. They don’t know quite what to make of it.” He considers himself “the weird word guy.”
Jaeger recited, from memory, an insightful poem,” The Summer Day,” written by Mary Oliver.
Being a wordsmith, he then said that art is an anti-anesthetic. “It enlivens your senses and enlivens your mind.” And that includes by using poetry.
Jaeger has done a lot of traveling fulfilling those first 135 engagements as poet laureate, and he refers to himself as the “world’s best waiter.” No, not waiting tables. Waiting in line for road construction and related activity.
During one respite from driving, Jaeger wrote “A Meditation.” Workers were loading road kill, a doe deer, into a truck as he waited behind a flagger during the bad fire season in 2017. He visualized the deer making it across the road unharmed. He spoke of how we are made of “earth, blood and starshine.”
Jaeger offered his gratitude to be able to experience as much in life as he had in his first 68 years on earth. In that the words to his original “Gratitude” came to mind. At age 65, there was a fork in the road. While stopping, Jaeger gave a horse an affectionate rub just above his nostrils. He said the animal was “inhaling his gratitude.” That was a proper way for the Montana poet laureate to conclude the sharing of his mind and ideas in relationship to art, including poetry.
JAEGER DID ask six questions before leaving the Bunkhouse Beans and Bacon stage. He asked if you have never been lonely; have you never been afraid; have you wanted to be like your parents; if you are “already” like your parents (getting a laugh from the crowd); have you had no pain in your life; and if you have some joy.
As the evening wrapped up, Sanders County Arts Council board member Karen Thorson asked those attending to compete a participant survey, which pertained to arts council events. Drawings were held to win tickets to the next arts council event.
Thorson then shared information about the final event of the arts council 2018-19 season — O Sole Trio. According to the Tapestry program, “This trio delivers soaring vocals and exhilarating music along with witty humor and storytelling.” O Sole Trio performs Saturday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Paradise Center in Paradise.
For further information about the Sanders County Arts Council or its events, contact Thorson at 406-826-0500; Boukal at 406-827-4359; or Joy Nelson at 406-826-8585.