Chris La Tray Named 2023-2024 Montana Poet Laureate

Montana Arts Council
  • Eric Heidle
  • August 15 2023
Black and white tintype photo of Chris La Tray by Chris Chapman

HELENA, Mont., August 15, 2023. The Montana Arts Council is pleased to announce that Governor Greg Gianforte has named Chris La Tray of Frenchtown as Montana’s Poet Laureate for 2023-2024.

The author of two collections of poetry, One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays from the World at Large and Descended From a Travel-worn Satchel: Haiku & Haibun, Chris La Tray has established himself as a prominent voice among Montana’s poets. His debut collection, One-Sentence Journal, received multiple honors upon its release, including the 2018 Montana Book Award, the 2019 High Plains Book Award (Best First Book), and finalist for the 2019 High Plains Book Award (Best Book by Indigenous Writer). His third book, Becoming Little Shell, will be published in 2024 by Milkweed Editions.

“I’m excited to have this opportunity,” Chris commented after learning of his appointment. “I never considered myself a poet till other people started calling me one.” Speaking of his plans for the role, Chris noted his interest in getting to places that might be overlooked as venues for poetry. “I look forward to taking it on the road, out to all the tribal colleges. I just got a call from Wibaux. I’m stoked—Wibaux is practically North Dakota!” Chris also plans to continue working with Montana’s Office of Public Instruction and Humanities Montana as part of its Indian Education for All Initiative, educating Montanans about its history through the perspectives of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa and Métis cultures.

Raised in Frenchtown, Chris La Tray is a member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and his facility with words is not unique in his family; Chris’ Métis great-great-grandfather Mose served as an interpreter for the US Army, speaking at least six languages, and Chris is today an advocate for reviving Indigenous languages spoken in Montana. Prior to publication of his first book Chris was a contributing writer to the Missoula Independent and had published a fiction and nonfiction works in a number of publications. He maintains an online journal, An Irritable Métis, where, as in his poetry, he grapples with issues of cultural identity, the natural world, and where this place called Montana is going.

Chris assumes the mantle of Poet Laureate from a fellow Missoula valley writer, Mark Gibbons, whose tenure has included conducting a series of video interviews with fellow Montana poets and regular contributions to the Montana Arts Council’s publication State of the Arts. Chris will be the eleventh Montana Poet Laureate as he begins his two-year term.

About the Montana Poet Laureate

Created in 2005 by the Montana State Legislature, the position of Montana Poet Laureate recognizes and honors a citizen poet of exceptional talent and accomplishment. The award is honorific; the Poet Laureate’s mission is to advance and support the poetic arts through outreach to and beyond the art and literary communities in Montana to promote the appreciation of poetry as an ancient and ongoing form of expression. The term of service for Poet Laureate is two years, and each honoree is selected from nominations submitted by Montana citizens. A panel drawn from members of the literary community select finalists from among all nominations, and finalists are submitted to the Montana Arts Council board for review and approval. The Poet Laureate of Montana is then selected by the Governor.

About the Montana Arts Council

In 1965 Montana Annotated Code 22-2-102 established the MAC as an agency of state government. The MAC mission is to develop the creative potential of all Montanans, advance education, spur economic vibrancy, and revitalize communities through involvement in the arts. Fifteen individuals appointed by the Governor oversee the Montana Arts Council. More information can be found at

Chris La Tray’s Website


Tintype portrait of Chris La Tray by Chris Chapman of Northland Studio, Missoula