M.L. Smoker is a member of the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana in Missoula, where she was the recipient of the Richard Hugo Fellowship. Her first collection of poems, Another Attempt at Rescue, was published by Hanging Loose Press in 2005. In 2009, she co-edited an anthology of human rights poetry with Melissa Kwasny entitled, I Go to the Ruined Place. She received a regional Emmy award for her work as a writer/consultant on the PBS documentary Indian Relay. Smoker served as the Director of Indian Education for the state of Montana for almost ten years. In 2015 Smoker was named the Indian Educator of the Year by the National Indian Education Association and was appointed to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education by President Barack Obama. She currently works at Education Northwest as a practice expert in Indian Education. She currently serves as co-poet laureate for the state of Montana, alongside Melissa Kwasny. In 2021, Smoker and Kwasny were named Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellows.
In 2021, M.L. Smoker was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. Smoker, alongside Melissa Kwasny, will partner with seven Montana art and historical museums, selecting individual works, writing ekphrastic poems in response, and holding workshops on site at the museums for area youth to learn to write their own ekphrastic poems. The project, which builds on the success of a previous collaboration with the Missoula Art Museum, will culminate in a webinar on ekphrastic poetry through the museums’ websites and Humanities Montana’s Speakers in the Schools program.