Joe Russell Kreger, a Tonkawa rancher who didn’t write his first poem until the age of 56, has been appointed as the Oklahoma State Poet Laureate for 2021-2022.
The appointment by Gov. Kevin Stitt makes Kreger the first person to serve as the state poet laureate twice. He held the position from 1998 to 2001.
Kreger has published two volumes of what he terms “cowboy poetry” — “Lookin’ at Life” (1997) and “Still Lookin’” (2000). He has also released several audio albums of his poetry, and has given readings and presentations throughout the region.
“It is an honor to appoint Joe Russell Kreger as the 2021-2022 Oklahoma State Poet Laureate,” Stitt said in a statement. “Joe’s journey to creative writing shows that it is never too late for new ventures, and I look forward to this rancher turned ‘cowboy poet’ carrying on our Oklahoma tradition and promoting his work across the state.”
Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples said in a statement that Kreger’s work “is filled with the wisdom gleaned from a life defined by a strong work ethic, a humble nature, and the heartbreaks and blessings encountered along the way. His connection to the land we call home and the inspiration he draws from it are defining trademarks that will speak to the heart of Oklahomans everywhere.”
A Tonkawa native, Kreger earned a bachelor of science in animal science at Oklahoma State University. He worked for Continental Oil Company of Ponca City before becoming a full-time rancher and entrepreneur, founding Kreger Equipment, a livestock and ranch equipment Oklahoma distribution business.
Kreger eventually closed out the company to devote his efforts to working and growing Kreger Ranch, a purebred and commercial beef cattle operation.
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