Center Director and CowboyPoetry.com managing editor Margo Metegrano comments, “Cowboy poetry preserves a history as it tells the stories of our working West. As importantly, it conveys compelling modern accounts of an endangered way of life to those who may have little information about this important segment of our population. Cowboy poets are great ambassadors from the rural world.”
Inaugurated in 2002, Cowboy Poetry Week was officially recognized by unanimous resolution of the United States Senate. The celebration, with a special focus on rural libraries with its Rural Library Program, is held during the third week of April each year, in conjunction with National Poetry Month in the United States and Canada.
Twenty-three states’ governors and other officials have issued Cowboy Poetry Week proclamations. Texas Governor Rick Perry has commented, “…cowboy poets have played a large part in preserving western heritage and culture through oral and written poetry. While history books inform us of the past, cowboy poetry has allowed us to truly experience the past. Through cowboy poetry, we have been allowed into the emotions and thoughts of those making history. We can feel the excitement, sympathize through hardships and hear their hopes and dreams. Cowboy poets have inspired and informed, bringing to their many fans education, art, and the best of our heritage and history.” Past Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has commented, “In the tradition of written and oral history, cowboy poets preserve our rich cultural history, opening the door for the generations to come to discover the heritage of the years past….we are proud of our numerous well-respected contemporary cowboy poets and look forward to the next generation of storytellers…”
“Making Adjustments,” a painting by noted Western artist, poet, and fourth-generation Arizona rancher Shawn Cameron was selected as this year’s Cowboy Poetry Week poster art. She comments on the painting, “I have spent my life watching cowboys work and noted the horses, equipment and attitudes they possess. The best ones are alert to what is ahead and prepare themselves accordingly. ‘Making Adjustments’ is a painting of a good hand, Toby Foote, checking his cinch before roping calves to be branded.” Posters are sent to libraries as a part of the Center’s Rural Library Program and are available to Center supporters.
The BAR-D Roundup, the Center’s annual compilation recording of the best in classic and current cowboy poetry is also offered to libraries. The seven editions to date include classic recordings of poets reciting their own works and recitations by contemporary cowboy poets. The recordings include the works of three National Endowment for the Arts Fellows (the late Buck Ramsey of Texas, Wallace McRae of Montana, and Joel Nelson of Texas); two recipients of the Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Andy Wilkinson of Texas and John Dofflemyer of California; and past Montana Poet Laureate, Crow elder Henry Real Bird. There are vintage selections, including the voice of American man of letters, Pulitzer Prize winning poet Stephen Vincent Benét (1898-1943) in a recording from the Library of Congress; Wyoming cowboy and artist Harry Jackson; Canadian bard Robert Service; and South Dakota poet Charles Badger Clark, Jr. There are many fine selections of original works by cowboys, horseman, ranch people, and writers and recitations of classic cowboy poetry by today’s top reciters. The forthcoming 2013 volume (October) is a special collection of Christmas cowboy poetry.
CowboyPoetry.com is a central resource for cowboy poetry and associated Western arts, a program of the non-profit Center for Western and Cowboy Poetry. Cowboy poetry’s enduring popularity is celebrated year round at CowboyPoetry.com, in a growing number of publications and recordings, and at hundreds of regional gatherings, most notably the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, which marked its 29th year in 2013.