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National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Celebrates 30th Anniversary

By Harriet Staff


Celebrate the lifestyle of the wild west next week at the 30th anniversary of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. Participants include ranchers, storytellers, musicians, radio personalities, and of course, poets.

Next week marks the 30th anniversary of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, in Elko, Nev., a tradition sponsored by the Western Folklife Center in that city. Poets, storytellers, musicians, radio personalities and now even bloggers come together to promote the occupational and artistic traditions of the rural West.

While activities like rawhide braiding and ranch dancing get a fair amount of attention as well, it’s the spoken — or sung — word that draws performers from ranches all over the West and Canada each year. Among them will be Waddie Mitchell, a writer who grew up listening to cowboys tell stories on the various Nevada ranches on which his father worked, and who helped found the first cowboy poetry gathering.

“I can’t ever remember ‘finding’ cowboy poetry,’ ” Mr. Mitchell writes on his Web site. “When you live in close proximity like that with the same folks month after month, one of your duties is to entertain each other, and I suppose that’s where the whole tradition of cowboy poetry started.”

He will be joined by more than 40 other entertainers, like Deanna Dickinson McCall, whose family has been ranching in Texas since the 1840s and whose work won her an album of the year award from the Academy of Western Artists in 2012; and Paul Zarzyski, a “rodeo poet,” as he describes himself on his website, for 40 years who considers his bareback bronc riding equipment and his Smith-Corona typewriter his two most prized possessions.

Crafts, films, arts and concerts accompany the storytelling from Jan. 27 through Feb. 1, with a keynote address by Temple Grandin, the author and animal welfare advocate, on Jan. 30.

This weekend is also the last chance to catch the dancing horses and fiddle showdowns of the 108th National Western Stock Show in Denver. This year’s show features some 15,000 animals, Western art exhibitions and a Wild West show. That’s in addition to its five rodeos, the pro finals of which take place Saturday and Sunday.

Yee-haw! (We couldn’t resist.) Read all about it at New York Times.

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Posted in Poetry News on Monday, January 27th, 2014 by Harriet Staff.