Michael Earl Craig is something of a shape-shifter. As a farrier based near Livingston, Mont., he has one foot firmly entrenched in hard-working rural Montana. As an internationally acclaimed poet, he has the other foot deep in the rarified world of academia. Given all this, he’ll be the first to admit that people aren't sure what to make of him.
“I’ve had shoeing clients who initially are suspicious,” says the certified journeyman farrier. “There’s something about me that doesn’t quite seem like their last farrier. And I’ve also been around intellectuals or academics, and I sometimes feel like they think, ‘There’s something about this guy, he’s not quite one of us.’”
Oddly enough, though, it’s this exact mixture of blue-collar laborer and lauded intellectual that makes Craig the perfect person to fill his brand-new role: Poet Laureate of the State of Montana. The embodiment of Montana’s own complex identity, he hopes to use the two-year, honorary position as a chance to spread poetry to parts of the state that are often overlooked—rural towns, small schools and prisons.
In many ways, Craig is a champion of the often overlooked and under appreciated. His poetry traffics in the ordinary, even the trivial — omelets, cigarettes, defunct cars, birds, weather and holiday office parties.
“I feel that it takes some bravery to write about mundane, everyday things that seem anti-poetic and perhaps unimportant,” he says. “I decided that I’m going to write very carefully about things that are of interest to me. I’m going to describe things, I’m going to listen, I’m going to record, and that’s going to be good enough. Or it might be better than good enough.”