Governor Announces Henry Real Bird as Montana’s Poet Laureate

New from Arni at the Montana Arts Council:

(HELENA) – Governor Brian Schweitzer appointed Henry Real Bird as Montana’s poet laureate.

“It is an honor to appoint Henry Real Bird as poet laureate,” said Governor Brian Schweitzer. “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.”

Henry Real Bird, Garryowen. Real Bird is a rancher and former rodeo cowboy, and raises champion bucking horses. He has been featured at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada and has published 12 children’s books, a poetry book, Where Shadows Are Born, and has an audio compact disc, Rivers of Horse. Real Bird has won the Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and was featured in the award-winning documentary “Why the Cowboy Sings.” He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Albuquerque and a master’s degree from Eastern Montana College (now Montana State University – Billings). He is the third Montana Poet Laureate and succeeds Greg Pape, whose term expired. Real Bird and his wife and children live on the O-W Ranch in Big Horn County.

The Montana Poet Laureate recognizes and honors a citizen poet of exceptional talent and accomplishment. The Poet Laureate's role is to encourage appreciation of poetry and literary life in Montana by giving readings and presentations throughout the state, making poetry available to a wide state audience. The Montana Poet Laureate position was established by the Montana legislature in 2005.

For more information about the Poet Laureate program, please contact the Montana Arts Council at 406-444-6430 or email at

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Comment by Ken Egan on October 13, 2009 at 10:37am
Brief comment on Garryowen (Custer historians correct me if I'm mistaken): The tune "Garryowen" was Custer's favorite battle song--his troops played it as he approached a battlefield. A bit of irony in that town being named for the loser in the Battle of the Little Big Horn?
Comment by Lisa Simon on October 13, 2009 at 8:57am

You're in luck. Henry is coming to the Poetry Salon, bring your books along for signing.

Comment by Clair Leonard on October 13, 2009 at 8:24am
I was particularly interested to read about this in the Missoulian recently for a few reasons. He is from Garryowen. There's a Garryowen Limerick (Ireland) and a Garryowen Rugby Club so you can imagine where my mind was going as I read the article. I was remembering my walk to school every day from the age of about 12 to 18, the short cut through Garryowen in the flogging rain, to get to Crescent College Comprehensive, a Jesuit Secondary School.

Also, I was interested in the Governor's choice, a person who has written children's books, a poet, a strong message perhaps for education, poetry and our next generation. 'Can't resist a cowboy, a rancher, a Montanan. All reasons to celebrate! I am not yet familiar with Henry Real Bird's work, but I will certainly take the time to rectify that. My nine year old daughter Brighid has started writing poetry at school recently. I have a kindergartner just learning to read and an eight year old who loves the environment, nature and the outdoors. I'll start at the Missoula Public Library to see what I can find on Henry Real Bird and maybe if the kids like it, someone with a Birthday in October and a birthday in January might just get a Henry Real Bird book. Now, if only I could get it signed by the author...

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