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Cowboy Poetry

If you're a cowboy with a hankerin' for poetry, get ready for the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. Eight-thousand people are descending on the small town for the festival this year, and as it does every time, the event draws a stampede of cowboy poets, musicians and tourists from all over the U.S. and abroad.

Open Road: Cowboy Poetry
By Hal Cannon

Listen with RealAudio: Cowboy Poetry preview

Rider's Block

Rider's Block Tonight they're trying, once again,
With pencils poised, impatient pen,
To scribe the ultimate in verse.
They write, erase; they chafe and curse
In roundup camp, in barroom smoke
To braid in rhyme the latest joke.
The quest to fill the current rage
For cowboy poems, to mount the stage
In Elko, is their hearts' desire.
They writhe in rage beside the fire,
Each standza's formed, in diagram,
In foreheads throbbing with iamb.
Prepared to drop each "g" in "ing,"
Slick metaphors are poised to spring.
All they need's a topic, yet
Each mind is numb. They squirm and sweat.
They quick-draw blanks. They should be fannin'
Bull's-eyes aimed at Elder Cannon!
Why? They could rival Badger Clark!
If mental coils produced one spark
To light this black hole, filled with doubt.
But no! No mark, they missed him out.
To hell with humor! Nostalgia then?
A saga of bold saddlemen?
A cutting swipe at dudes? Or women?
Or bureaucrats? Their minds are swimmin'.
Damn Zarzyski, Michael Logan,
Who never lack a theme or slogan
Or inspiration for a rhyme.
What's their gimmick? Why's it I'm
Stuck here rimrocked, thinking zero,
When I could be a western hero
On Western Horseman's poet's page?
A sagebrush rhymin cowboy sage.
My powder's wet. The well is dry.
Calliope has passed me by.
Take heart, all you rhyming pards,
The West is filled with want-to bards
Just two quarts low of inspiration,
Filled tonight with great frustration.
Horse rider's block, you're right, 's a curse.
But pardner, there's one problem worse:
It's them that's got but zilch to say
But goes and writes 'em anyway.

That's by cowboy poet Wally McCrae and his verse about the worst thing that can happen to a cowboy at the Gathering...Rider's Block.

But you know, it's not just poetry that draws people from all over the globe. There are also exhibits, concerts, dances and workshops on everything from saddlemaking and horsemanship...to courtship. The Cowboy Poetry Gathering is the brain-child of The Open Road's Hal Cannon. He's going to take us on an insider's tour next week. And you don't have to wear a ten-gallon hat to come along for the ride.

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