Local graduates featured in ‘New Montana Voices’

December 22, 2018

High school students from around the state are the “New Montana Voices.”

The first edition of “New Montana Voices,” a 238-page book featuring poetry, prose and photographs by high school students is out now. The book includes interviews with some of the students and an introduction by Montana Poet Laureate Lowell Jaeger of Kalispell.

The publication was the idea of Creston area resident Steve Moore, in collaboration with Jaeger, and Brian Schott of the Whitefish Review literary journal, who assisted with judging.

Moore thought of the idea while sitting on his back porch reading the news on a controversial topic and thought what was missing were the voices of youth who may be impacted by the decisions adults were making decades down the road.

Moore said his first thought was to have students submit work on a specific theme, such as water, to learn what their thoughts were.

“The more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be limiting,” Moore said. He ultimately decided to leave it open.

Moore said he wanted to provide a platform for teenagers, whether they were in school or not, the opportunity to express themselves through a creative outlet.

“I think there are a lot of social cliches that get attributed to them so they can be swept off the table and not listened to - ‘Oh, they’re just a teenager; they don’t have life wisdom or life experience. We don’t have to listen to them,’” he said. “As that gets internalized, they begin to discount the validity of their own voices.”

With “New Montana Voices,” Moore hopes to get the message across that youth are worth listening to beyond their classroom assignments and social circles. He said art is a perfect avenue to process complicated issues or experiences going on in their lives.

In order “to get their attention,” he incentivized students to participate with monetary prizes. What resulted, he said, was illuminating and powerful. Students tackled a range of topics and emotions such as life and death; hope and suffering; beauty and wonder; forgiveness and love; family and home - even the thrill and heartbreak of a baseball game.

“I was real impressed with the various themes. There are some really, really, courageous submissions,” Moore said.

One of the complicated themes Meredith Miele, a Glacier High School graduate, tackled was the experience of feeling suffocated. Four of six of her photographs featured in the book are part of a series in which she explored how to embody discomforting thoughts in a physical way through different poses and props.

In an artist’s statement that appears in the book Miele, now a freshman majoring in studio art at Montana State University, said: “I chose this topic because I often feel suffocated by society. The purpose of this body of work is to shed light on how all people can struggle internally. They seem extraordinarily dark, but they aren’t in reality because everyone struggles with these things. They should be considered normal but are often stigmatized and thought to be bad.”

She shared first place in the second semester photography category for her submissions.

Getting the desired outcome took time, Miele said. The project took a year to complete as her high school senior project for an Advanced Placement 2-D Studio Design class.

“I would say my favorite part, or parts, was first, thinking of the idea. I really love editing. The pictures you see took a lot of editing - superimposing images in Photoshop,” she said.

At the end of the day, selecting the “best” photos from hundreds or thousands of images is challenging. What it comes down to is minor details, according to Miele and Caden Jordt, a Glacier High School graduate who is now a freshman at Montana State University, majoring in psychology.

Jordt also shared first place in the second semester photography category. Six of his photographs are featured in the book in addition to some of his poems.

“I tried to pick the photos that, I think, in my eye best represented my understanding of what photography is as an art form,” Jordt said.

Jordt gravitates toward capturing spontaneous, or unplanned moments. He is also drawn to light.

“What makes me stop and pull out my camera to take a picture is lighting. Lighting is the most eye-catching thing. Like the sun coming through trees, it reaches out and draws my attention, forces me to look or focus,” Jordt said. “A lot of my photographs have to do with dynamic lightening.”

As far as poetry, he enjoys free verse, going into it without a specific theme, which is a commonality of the work written by other students that appears in the book.

“I think a lot of it is just synthesizing a lot of thoughts I have in my head,” Jordt said, “and put it in equally complex writing that’s open to interpretation.”

The next submission deadline for “New Montana Voices,” is May 15, 2019.

All youth who are of high school age (grades 9-12) are eligible to submit their work. Teens do not have to be traditional students to participate, according to Moore. He encourages teens who may be incarcerated, homeless or in a treatment/group home, to participate, the idea being to gain a variety of perspectives.

The top three submissions in each category for first and second semester are awarded 150, and $50.

Copies of “New Montana Voices” are available for purchase at the Flathead Valley Community College store.

For more information, or to submit entries visit at https://www.newmontanavoices.com. For more information people also may email steve@newmontanavoices.com.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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