UMW News BureauAlthough Roger Dunsmore will be opening the spring 2013 Dances with Words series on Thursday, Jan. 24, the kick-off event will mark the end of an era for the acclaimed poet and professor.
Although Roger Dunsmore will be opening the spring 2013 Dances with Words series on Thursday, Jan. 24, the kick-off event will mark the end of an era for the acclaimed poet and professor.
Dunsmore, who has taught at the University of Montana Western since 2005, will be leaving Dillon, Mont. this winter for his new home in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The move will put him and his wife Jenny Fallein closer to family in the northwest.
Dunsmore is also a University of Montana Professor Emeritus of Humanities and counts nearly 50 years of teaching in the UM system to his name. He was a one of the original organizers of the groundbreaking UM Round River Experiment in Environmental Education, which eventually became the Montana Wilderness and Civilization program.
Dunsmore focused his work on American Indian Literature and taught within the Wilderness and Civilization program until 2003. After a brief hiatus, he and Fallein, who is also a writer, found themselves in Dillon. Dunsmore said returning to the classroom and teaching under Montana Western’s block scheduling program proved to be a fulfilling and unique experience.
Montana Western is the only four-year university in the country to offer a block scheduling program — Experience One — in which students take one class at a time.
“When I started teaching here [Montana Western] in 2005, it was the first time I’d taught full-time in 17 years,” Dunsmore explains. “I really love the block. I love the intensity of it. I was thrilled and energized and not just by the block but also by the students. The students had a great work ethic and were willing to be open and engaged.”
In addition to his contributions to higher education, he is the author of nine books of poetry and essays focusing on a blend of ecological writing, indigenous thought, oriental thought and nature poetry. Dunsmore was twice shortlisted for Montana Poet Laureate, and in October 2012, Humanities Montana recognized him as a Humanities Hero for his many contributions to the arts.
Dunsmore, Fallein and the writer Cedar Brant also formed the Bent Grass Poetry Troupe in 2007. Built from an informal poetry gathering at Dunsmore’s home since 1998, the Bent Grass Poetry Troupe tours across Montana and brings spoken word and interactive arts gatherings to communities as far away as Ekalaka, Mont.
Dunsmore’s work and writing reflect a deep sense of reverence for the natural world, and his work has been thoroughly impacted by his life in Montana. Although he will not be far from the Big Sky State, Dunsmore says he does have some trepidation in leaving Montana.
“It feels a little daunting,” he admits. “It’s the first time I’ve really left Montana in 50 years. I feel like a Montanan, whatever that means. I’m not just putting it behind me, but it does make me realize how much of my identity is wrapped up in this place.”
Although he will not be teaching anymore, Dunsmore plans to stay busy spending more time with family, sailing on Lake Coeur d'Alene and studying tai chi and the Chinese written character. He also plans to continue touring with the Bent Grass Poetry Troupe and is currently working to publish a book of essays and a book of poetry.
“I’ll always keep writing,” Dunsmore says. “It’s one of the few things I know how to do. I feel grateful I have writing and that I was good enough at it and got enough positive feedback that I just keep going with it.”
Dunsmore’s reading will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Swysgood Technology Center (STC) Great Room.
Click here for the Dances with Words spring 2013 poster. Upcoming spring 2013 readings include Gary Ferguson on Thursday, Feb. 21; Mark Gibbons on Thursday, March 28; and Brandon Schrand on Thursday, April 25.
All Dances with Words readings are free and open to the public.