New Montana Voices is a collaborative effort between Brian Schott of The Whitefish Review, Lowell Jaeger editor of Many Voices Press and the 2017 – 2019 Montana State Poet Laureate, and the husband/wife founders Steve Moore and Cindy Edstrom.
The idea for New Montana Voices originated as part of a discussion Steve and Cindy had concerning the relative absence of young adult voices in the dialogs taking place within the community they live — Kalispell, MT. They realized that many of the decisions that are being made in county halls, mayors’ offices, senatorial chambers, etc. across the state will have profound impacts on the lives of these current high school students. Yet, theirs is a voice notably absent from the discussions taking place. And the thought arose, why not invite them to present what is on their minds and in their lives since they are the most significantly affected group of stakeholders throughout all these decisions?
Where the idea for New Montana Voices originated out of the realization of the dearth of young voices within the polis, it eventually transformed to encompass the notion that Poetry and Art are, first and foremost, essential components to meaningful intra- and interpersonal lives. Only through courageously grappling with one’s own essential circumstances can one learn empathy toward others’.
We chose New Montana Voices, then, as a means to encourage students to really look inward while keeping an eye outward onto the world they find themselves in. But not just traditional students. We also want to hear from students being homeschooled. We need to hear the voices of those who are homeless or incarcerated, on the run or living under society’s radar. For each will grow older and soon forget most of that which is not recorded. So it is that we also want to give to each student who participates a placeholder within the larger cultural voice of Montana, a place they can point to and remember, and retrieve for their own very personal future. We want to give to them a moment when they can be perhaps larger than the selves they believe life affords them. For some, the first intimations perhaps of what it means to be an artist. For others a moment when they fully embrace themselves as equals in the greater struggle of life’s dramas. But, for all — a chance to say to themselves that their voice truly matters and is a thing to be cherished and not abandoned.