“Language organizes thought”

So says Montana’s new Poet Laureate, Sheryl Noethe, from her home in Missoula. “If I have feelings that I’m unclear on, if I put them into poetry, then they become clear.”

Noethe says she felt invisible growing up in Minneapolis until a teacher believed in her during the fifth grade. “She told me, ‘You are going to be an author,'” Noethe says. “It rewrote my entire life. That is a gift that comes once in a few lifetimes and my mission is to give it back to the kids.”

As Poet Laureate, Noethe will work toward teaching American Indian literature in Montana schools — especially ones in rural and underfunded areas. She plans to visit schools and produce podcasts so that as many people as possible have access to Indian poetry.

“Everyone deserves to be a poet,” she says. “It’s nobody’s job to tell someone to stop trying. It’s a waste of imagination. We need poetry. It provides solace, deep understanding of the self, deep perspective on a crazy world and the affirmation of beauty.”

Noethe says she has worked in the toughest neighborhoods in America, teaching kids to love to write poetry. She was active in the Teachers and Writers Collaborative in New York City and is now artistic director of the Missoula Writing Collaborative, which she estimates has reached 20,000 youngsters over its 17-year history.

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