The Lewistown Public Library is honored to host Montana poet, Métis storyteller, and Little Shell tribal member Chris La Tray for an in-person event on Thursday, March 24 at 6PM in the upstairs Meeting Room. His presentation, entitled “The Day That Finally Came” draws on 150 years of history to tell the story of who the Little Shell are and their part in shaping Central Montana. This event is sponsored by Humanities Montana through their Hometown Humanities program, which brings humanities-based programming to Lewistown for the current year. Chris will also guest host Teen Writers on March 24 at 4PM.
Chris’ book “One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays from the World at Large” (2018, Riverfeet Press) was the winner of the 2018 Montana Book Award and the 2019 High Plains Book Award. This collection gathers Chris’ daily musings on living on the outskirts of Missoula, Montana and the explosions of nature around him. In the preface, Chris describes this pursuit of a collection in this format: “The idea is to highlight a daily thought, or a moment…in an effort to be more aware in the world.” Some pieces are short punches of emotion — the first entry in the “Fall” section reads simply, “My dad/died today” — while others are more drawn-out observations. One of my favorite essays is called “Lincoln After Ted” discussing the interesting lack of Unabomber notoriety in the place of the criminal’s capture. Chris’ most precise words are saved for his exacting observations of wildlife, giving personality to and forging sometimes rocky friendships with coyotes, grouse, pheasants, and fish. As a former resident of the Missoula Valley, I greatly appreciated his nods to various niche Missoula haunts, including Flipper’s, Charlie B.’s, and Kelly Island. His voice carries a self-deprecating humor and wry honesty that makes his poetry easily approachable and relatable. “One-Sentence Journal” is available for checkout at the Library.
Chris is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and is of Chippewa-Cree Métis descent. His family history extends far back in the annals of Central Montana, connecting back to the founding of Lewistown. Chris’ newest book, “Becoming Little Shell”, discusses this heritage and is slated for release later this year from Milkweed Editions. In addition to his publications, Chris also teaches with the Missoula Writing Collaborative’s Writers in the Schools program, which brings poetry education to schools across Montana.