National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Cowboy Poetry Gathering, National

Last week in January
The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is a celebration of the old tradition of cowboy poetry—and of other cowboy art—in the buckaroo town of Elko, Nev.
Poetry by cowboys has a long history; cowboys traditionally recited poetry as they rode on cattle drives, but it was a private, little-known custom. A poem by Allen McCanless published in 1885 has these lines:
My ceiling the sky, my carpet the grass,
My music the lowing of herds as they pass
My books are the brooks, my sermons the stones,
My parson's a wolf on a pulpit of bones...
The gathering, which began in 1985 with about 50 working cowboys, has become a six-day affair that now includes folk-music concerts, western dances, exhibits of cowboy gear, and workshops not only on writing but also on such topics as horse-hair braiding and photography. In 1992, the Hispanic vaquero (cowboy) was honored with performances and exhibits. Poetry remains the heart of the festival, and the poets—all working ranch people—include men, women, and children as young as six or eight. The poetry includes doggerel and limericks, but is mostly in ballad form with narratives like those of Rudyard Kipling's.
Close to 300 cowboys, cowgirls, and ranchers participate, and between 6,000 and 8,000 people from all over the world attend the various events. Tickets go on sale in October and are instant sell-outs. The gathering has spawned other cowboy-poetry festivals throughout the West ( see also Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering).
Hal Cannon, director of the Western Folklore Center in Salt Lake City, was the force behind the first gathering, and the Center still sponsors it. The goals of the gathering are to represent the voices of working ranch people through their poetry, music, and folklife; to promote a dialogue between urban and rural people of the American West; and to nurture understanding between pastoral peoples throughout the world. The Center provides a live webcast of events from the Elko Convention Center Auditorium.
Western Folklife Center
501 Railroad St.
Elko, NV 89801
775-738-7508; fax: 775-738-2900
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
The 31st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering began Monday and runs all week in Elko.
Yes, there'll be grizzled buckaroos at the 30th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada.
Mitchell's life took a turn for the different in 1984, when he helped organize the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev., where he gave his first public reading.
Cowboy poetry kicked into high gear in 1985, when the first National Cowboy Poetry Gathering was held in Elko, Nevada.

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