The Tradition of Cowboy Poetry

Since the time of the cattle drives from Texas up into the western north where the rail lines would carry beef to a hungry nation, the tradition or at least the legend of cowboy poetry has been going strong. In its essence Cowboy Poetry captures the beauty and grit of a Cowboy's way of life.


If you're not familiar with the genre there are two main myths I would like to clear up right away! First, the Cowboy's who wrote this poetry out on the trail were surprisingly very well read and besides their own work, would recite poets like Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Rudyard Kiping, and other popular poets of the day around thier campfires. Though the style and legend of Cowboy Poetry is certainly based in the oral tradition, we have many classic Cowboy Poems from those early days precisely because their authors were writing them down. Second, is that not all Cowboy Poetry is really written by cowboys. Many cowboy Poems are written by authors who lived on the fringes of the cattle trail admiring the romanticism, tenacity, and grit of the Cowboy way of life.



World War II almost ended the Cowboy Poetry tradition, while it still may have been recited out on the range thre are very few published Cowboy Poems after that point. Then some Foloklorists with an interest in preserving the Wild West culture got together in Elko, NV to revive the tradition in 1985.


The most important thing you should know about states across the Wild West is that they all have a different sound and understanding of Cowboy tradition. The folksy Bluegrass of Montana doesn't sound a bit like the must have a fiddle sound in Texas. The Cantina qualities of California and New Mexico are certainly different from the battered plainsmen's stories in Wyoming. I've sat around many a campfire in my home state of Montana listening to the old musicians pick out song after song passed down to them for generations that will never be replicated anywhere else!



If anything from their peoms to their music what you'll come to realize about Cowboys is that they are expert storytellers. My personal favorite is a poem my Grandpa pulls out on special occasions about a poor Cowboy whose wife sent him to buy her a new bra! 😂

Here is one such poem in celebration of the change of season that by now has gripped us all.



Have you ever heard Cowboy Poetry? Do you have a favorite Cowboy poet or poem?

What is something unique about the sound of music from your region?


Sources

https://www.westernfolklife.org/from-the-first-half-of-the-20th-century

http://www.rattle.com/a-brief-introduction-to-cowboy-poetry-or-whos-the-guy-in-the-big-hat-and-what-is-he-talking-about-by-rod-miller/

https://poets.org/text/brief-guide-cowboy-poetry


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