Monday, October 30, 2006

What is Western Music/Cowboy Poetry?


The following is an article written for www.cowboyentertainer.com by Wayne Nelson of American Falls, Idaho.

There are few enough people alive today who remember a world without television, let alone those who remember a time with no radio. All we really have to go by are accounts, diaries and books of the period. Add to that word of mouth through hundreds of family histories and you get a glimpse of what leisure time was like in a world so quiet you could hear the stars in their paths across an endless backdrop of skies newly discovered by "civilized" man. Outside the circle of firelight or the walls of a makeshift cabin, night in frontier America was a dark and dangerous place. In those days people clamored to be together the way we now clamor to be away from others. And when they gathered, how did they entertain themselves? They played games, sang songs, told stories and recited poems learned from both written page and word of mouth.Then, as now, a well delivered poem brought the embers of the campfire to life, spreading itself across the dancing flames with added richness each time it was told.

The sheer joy of listening to a skilled recital must have been equal to watching a good movie with ones' favorite actors in terms of today. Having a good storyteller or poet along on a long cattle drive could do wonders in boosting the moral of a crew, which in turn led to the success of the endeavor. Some cowhands with only marginal proficiency were kept on the payroll for their entertainment value alone by farsighted trailbosses who realized their importance in the overall picture.

Somewhere along the line someone remembered that if a good story is preserved in clever rhymes it is more easily remembered ("In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue." How could we forget?) and began to memorialize their heros and heartlands in the telling and re-telling of what are now the classics, many of which had many campfire miles on them before they ever hit paper. Some good books were published in the first few decades of the twentieth century but seemed doomed to the realm of obscure folklore.

Then, in the mid-1980's a few devotees met in Elko, Nevada and started the ball rolling on one of the biggest phenomena of our time. Not only were people reciting the classics...they were digging out grandpa's poems that he never showed anybody, coming out of the poetry closet themselves by the thousands, enriching Western culture with verbal color and detail heretofore thought impossible. Cowboy music (as opposed to "Country" music), art, gear western horsemanship, cooking and even Cowboy Church have enjoyed a simultaneous revival. Gatherings have sprung up almost everywhere cattle are raised and new writers are voicing their love of the cowboy lifestyle with a zeal that hasn't appeared since the Oklahoma land rush.

A virtual rebirth of western culture has resulted from Cowboy Poetry...one that has many sociologists scratching their heads. It's too bad they can't see what we see; It's too good to ever die!!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

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More than 5000 Love Poems in a very user friendly interface with little ads

Donna Hatton said...

Dear Larry and all, When I wrote my email about AWA and Bobby Newton it was for the simple reason that I believed what I wrote. I also felt that I came with some knowledge as an elder statesman with certain creditals. While I may have made it sound simple I am of the belief that we get no where when we say things in anger or when we only find fault.
I have been envolved in Cowboy Poetry and Music since 1986 and I have been in the entertainment business long before that, theater, music and the fine arts. I am married to a Rancher and have been his wife for 41 years, I am a mother and grandmother. I have traveled extensively, living in Japan and across this country and have a few life sciences in my bag.
I am a Charter Member of AWA,and a member of WMA. I was not just trying to paint a rosy picture, but I do not feel that we solve any problem with finger pointing, Kathy Camden said it and said it well.
I have said we need all the venues we can grab and hold on to, I still feel that AWA is one of them. Bobby Newton Started it, Bobby Newton has financed it and it was and is his business to run however he pleases. The AWA membership by the way did have voting privileges until this past year when it went to a jury selection. If Bobby selected all the winners where then does that put the Will Rogers that stands on my shelf and Juni's and on many others. There were workshops and showcases and since I have been going to both AWA and now WMA I have been envolved in those workshops and for both organizations,d have facilitated a few of them as well. I have also stood next to Bobby at several shows and workshops, he was introduced to me at one of them. While he and his family were building sets for the Awards show we were jamming. I am only speaking of what I know. Is he without fault, absolutely not, who is?
As Juni said, we are intitled to our opinons and I respect everyones right to their own feelings, but I hope we will keep perspective and fairness, because it is true that we need to discuss the issues and to build on what is good. Thank You for sharing and allowing me to share as well. God Bless. Tom and I will See you Down The Trail, Respectfully, Donna Hatton