Raised on the Crow reservation by his grandparents, Real Bird’s primary language is Crow, which he believes gives form to his poetry. Real Bird is a rancher and educator who raises bucking horses and began writing poetry after an extended hospital stay in 1969. He was Montana’s Poet Laureate from 2009 to 2011.
Real Bird performed at the 2002 Olympic Arts Festival in Salt Lake City, and was honored with the Western Heritage Award for the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. He also performs regularly at the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko.
Upon being named Montana’s poet laureate, Real Bird saddled up a horse and took a 415-mile trip from Fort Berthold, North Dakota, to the Rocky Boy reservation in Montana, handing out books of poems along the way. People were “surprised and they just browsed through it right there, and they don’t know what to think,” he told Hal Canon of the Western Folk Life Center. “And so I’m gone by the next day, so I don’t know what they think… I just want them to enjoy the thought. Enjoy the thought and go for the ride into the feeling, whatever it is.”
Canon describes Real Bird’s work as being in the “greatest tradition of the beat poets. His work is an interesting melding of cowboy, horsemanship and Crow culture. There is no difference between his poetry and everyday life.”
Real Bird has authored a dozen children’s books, six anthologies, and five collections of poetry including his latest, Wolf Teeth.
Real Bird will visit with Park High School students during the day, then give a reading at the Blue Slipper Theatre, 113 E. Callender St., at 7 p.m. The reading is free, and will be followed by a reception and signing. The events are co-sponsored by the Murray Hotel and Elk River Books.
Elk River Arts & Lectures is a non-profit (501c3 status pending) that seeks to bring writers to Livingston for free public readings, and also to provide opportunities for those writers to interact with local public school students. Last fall, ERAL lecturers spoke to and worked with more than 250 Park High students.