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Montana’s Former Poet Laureate Tami Haaland to share poetry from her collections at BHSU Geek Speak

Author: BHSU Communications/Wednesday, January 16, 2019/Categories: Students, College of Liberal Arts, Community

On Thursday, Jan. 17, Montana’s Former Poet Laureate Tami Haaland will be visiting the Black Hills State University campus for the weekly Geek Speak lecture series. The event is open to the public and will take place at 4 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre of Woodburn Hall on the BHSU campus. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s to come!
Haaland teaches at Montana State University Billings and is the author of three poetry collections, What Does Not Return, When We Wake in the Night, and Breath in Every Room, winner of the Nicholas Roerich First Book Award.
Question: In your words, what importance does poetry have in society?
Answer from Haaland:Poetry has always played a role in human lives, and we are the building blocks of societies. Poetry is an ancient art form, like storytelling, music, and visual art, and our societies developed alongside these arts, maybe in part because of these arts. They provide identity, wisdom, and vision, all of which contribute to the social structure. They allow us to know something more about each other and ourselves.
“In some ways, poetry is quite popular today, often in its performance rather than its publication. Poetry expresses experience in a way that seems at once familiar and new. It provides articulation that validates experience or causes one to think more broadly. Much of it tackles social issues and provides some sort of insight that may be helpful as people come to evaluate their role or relationship to specific concerns.”
Q: What does it mean to you to have been a former Poet Laureate? 
A:  “It’s a good training ground for poetry advocacy, which, in my experience, often precedes the Poet Laureate role and continues on after the torch is passed to the next in line.  My time as Poet Laureate felt like a very lucky period, when I was able to meet many people and travel to the far corners of the state. I loved visiting community groups and K-12 classrooms, judging contests and meeting young writers. Montana has been good to me, and I’m grateful for the experiences I had as Poet Laureate.”
Q: What has been your inspiration for many of your works?
A: “It’s hard to say what will inspire a poem. I don’t think there are any limits, though generally, poems may be inspired by or incorporate ideas from reading—and not just literature, but the news, science articles, history—and from experience, which includes, memory, engagement with different environments, the internal experience of what happens in conscious and less, conscious states of mind.
“Technically, reading fits under the experience category. All of that sounds pretty vague, but it’s the little details that might lead to a poem: an overheard bit of conversation, the way birds fly close to a cliff, a brief encounter with a person or animal or painting that focuses the mind so that the words of a poem begin to take shape. Deliberate research often figures into the process, either as inspiration or follow up.”
Q: What can the audience look forward to at this Geek Speak?  
A: “I will read from my newest book, as well as a poem or two from earlier collections and possibly one or two new poems. I hope we can also have a lively discussion about poetry.”
Q: Why should students be excited to come?
A: “I always find that I learn something from hearing a poet read his or her poetry—something that is not available from simply reading the poems on the page.
“I hope students will feel free to ask questions or share their insights. I’m always interested in what students have to say, and I hope it will be an enjoyable event for everyone.”
About BHSU Geek Speak:
The Geek Speak lecture series, sponsored by the BHSU Honors program, features academic discussion and topics not normally discussed in the traditional classroom. The goal of the weekly lectures is to expose students and the community to diversity within the disciplines. Some Geek Speaks are also presented at the Jacket Zone store located on Main Street in downtown Spearfish. All lectures are free and open to the public.
Upcoming lectures include:
  • Jan. 24: Tracy Hunt and Chelsey Groseclose, counselors: “The Matrix Within: from Insomnia to Lucidity, the Powers of Sleep and Dreaming”
  • Jan. 31: Instructors Altman Studeny, Carrie Gray-Wood, Tim Steckline: “Twisted Fibers: Felt as Art, Technique, and Social Critique”
  • Feb. 7: Dr. David Cremean, professor of English:  “Bruce Springsteen as Storyteller”
  • Feb. 14: Jeffrey Winter, instructor of mathematics: “Secrets and Unconventional Uses of Microsoft Office”
  • Feb. 21: Dr. Holly Downing, professor of biology: “Why Our Mascot is Not a Bee—The Frustrations of a BHSU Entomologist”
  • Feb. 28: Dr. Max Marc, professor of management information systems: “Artificial Intelligence vs. Humans: Thought Experiments on the End-Game”
  • March 14: Dr. Jarrett Moore, assistant professor of research and assessment: “Manufacturing (Real)ity”
  • March 21: Dr. Chris Hahn, assistant professor of music: “We’re All Musicians: Exploring the Brain-Music Relationship”
  • March 28: BHSU Research Symposium Keynote Speaker, Meier Hall
  • April 4: Petrika Peters, sustainability coordinator at BHSU: “Global Dumping: What Happens to Your Electronic Waste?”
  • April 11: Christopher Landauer and Chris Fuchs: "Wizard, Fighter, Rouge RPG Design: Community Building Through Gaming"
  • April 25: Courtney Huse Wika, associate professor of English: “A Spontaneous Overflow of Powerful Feelings: A (Very Brief) Poetry Writing Workshop”
To read short descriptions of each lecture topic, visit
For more information, contact Dr. Courtney Huse-Wika, associate professor of English, at 605-642-6918 or email

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