Letter from the Director
Margaret Atwood, one of my favorite authors, writes: “A word after a word after a word is power.” This quote always reminds me of the role of the humanities—of language, story, and writing—in empowering us to act in and even change the world. Atwood’s message is especially meaningful right now in light of the COVID pandemic and the uncertainties it brings to our families, schools, and communities.
In late September, two Humanities Montana board members and I visited the Belgrade Community Library to present the Montana Center for the Book Prize. With this award, Humanities Montana recognizes excellence in promoting literacy and literature in Montana. When touring the library, I was moved by staff creativity, innovation, and dedication to bringing literary and cultural resources to the Belgrade community during the pandemic.
I was similarly heartened in October when I visited another Prize winner, the Alpine Artisans Open Book Club, at the trading post in Seeley Lake. We discussed the literature and authors that give us hope right now from Margaret Atwood, to Louise Erdrich, to Yaa Gyasi, to Ivan Doig. These visits to cultural organizations—I haven’t yet been able to visit the third Center for the Book Prize awardee, the Young Poets Program at MSU-Billings—left me feeling inspired and encouraged.
By providing high-quality literary programming to their communities in a time of global crisis, these Montana Center for the Book Prize winners are evidence of the power of words. The ceremonies lifted my spirits and were bright, celebratory moments in the midst of the ongoing, low-grade stress and anxiety many of us may feel in the midst of restrictions and social and political upheaval. Indeed, the humanities can help us and our communities find the strength and resilience to keep moving forward in overwhelming times—and in that sense, change the world.
Randi Lynn Tanglen,