By Sarah Pridgeon
State Governor Matt Mead this week signed an Executive Order naming Patricia Frolander as the fifth Poet Laureate of Wyoming. Frolander is a local rancher and published poet whose work has won several awards and appeared in anthologies, literary reviews, magazines and newspapers, as well as in her own book of poetry, Married Into It.
“It’s great work,” said Mead. “It resonates with me and it should resonate with all of Wyoming, because it speaks about Wyoming and speaks about our people.”
“He was very kind in what he had to say, I’m still extremely humbled,” says Frolander. “It’s a privilege and I am excited to serve the State of Wyoming. I not only want to further poetry, but literature in general. I think this is a wonderful opportunity and I would like to thank everyone who accompanied me and all of those poets in Wyoming whom I dearly love.”
The signing ceremony was attended by two members of the Wyoming Arts Council: Manager Rita Basom and Literary, Visual and Performing Arts Specialist Michael Shay. “The Wyoming Arts Council is the entity that forwards the final list of names to the governor, they are partners in this,” explains Frolander. “I was also blessed to have some of our Bear Lodge writing group there with me, and some dear friends.”
Frolander describes poetry as “the heartbeat of writing” and says she is inspired by Wyoming’s landscapes and people. “My poetry is my personal message to my children, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren – and the world in general – on my feelings, what I’ve experienced and why I love this place. Change is inevitable, and healthy, but if experiences are not recorded, they’re lost. This is here, this is now, this existed,” she says.
Poet Laureate of Wyoming is an honorary title served without compensation and Frolander’s duties will include submitting writings for occasions of her choice. One of these occasions, she says, will be the Governor’s Arts Awards, taking place in February.
Frolander’s other upcoming appearances include a book signing at Wind City Books in Casper on November 17, with Gaydell Collier, author of Just Beyond Harmony, and the Wyoming Women’s Agricultural Symposium on November 18.
A pair of Frolander’s poems are printed below:
Why I Stay
for awakening grass and chokecherry leaf,
a flute-warbled song from a yellow throat,
a heart, quickened, at springtime blush.
I revel in rain-drenched fields,
ramble meadows and hillsides,
seek coyote and fox,
glimpse fawns nestling in tall grasses.
I rouse to calls of Canada geese,
their vee slicing blue air,
seek the bandit who eats my winter grain,
laugh at ducklings’ play in the reservoir,
rejoice at the stallion’s nicker calling his mares.
I stay for the rhythm of season
for the land, always the land
for a man whose hands know my heartbeat
almost as well as God knows my soul.
Through the heart of Bear Lodge Mountains,
Houston Creek wends its way through the valley.
eventually spills into the Belle Fourche River.
Paint-peeled barns and homesteads nestle among meadows,
home to badger, raccoon, porcupine, gophers, and hawks.
Along its banks generations have raised livestock, hay, grain, and gardens.
Chokecherries mingle along draws lined with bur oak.
Hayfields sprawl in sunshine, wildflowers peep through tall grass.
Secrets live here.
The Rice Ranch cave chilled ice all summer,
cooled lemonade for 1890s picnics in the meadow below.
Coal Mine Hill conceals a whiskey still in one of the caved-in tunnels,
lures adventurous teens to trouble.
Carved in the side of Rupe Hill is a wagon trace . . .
when the wind is right you hear the crack of the teamster’s whip.
A tornado ripped through the Chatfield ranch, carried the barn away,
never touched a shingle on the house thirty feet away.
On the Frolander place, arrowheads surface, testify to those
who trailed through ponderosa seeking mulies and white-tails.
On Lambert’s land a soddy, roof caved in, tucks
beside a reservoir—the grave on the north side unmarked.
When snow lies three feet deep, stories are told over dinner
of wicked horses, tough cattle, good neighbors.
Grasshoppers, weevil, and drought punctuate their tales.
Laughter salts each conversation.
Aged eyes mist,
secrets are told to only a few.