Cowboy Poetry

What is cowboy poetry?

According to (site closed in June 2020):

Former Montana State Folklorist Mike Korn wrote the [National Cowboy Poetry] Gathering's [1985] working Definition:

Cowboy poetry is rhymed, metered verse written by someone who has lived a significant portion of his or her life in Western North American cattle culture. The verse reflects an intimate knowledge of that way of life, and the community from which it maintains itself in tradition. Cowboy poetry may or may not in fact be anonymous in authorship but must have qualities, content, and style that permit it to be accepted into the repertoire of the cultural community as reflecting that community's aesthetics in style, form, and content. The structural style of cowboy poetry has its antecedents in the ballad style of England and the Appalachian South. It is similar to popular works of authors such as Robert W. Service and Rudyard Kipling.

Cowboy Poetry in Arizona

As a Western state where the cattle industry has been historically significant, Arizona has a strong tradition of cowboy poetry. In 2005, Time Magazine published a feature on cowboy poets in Arizona, focusing on the tradition’s past and present. Arizonans celebrate cowboy poetry at the following national and regional events.

Cowboy Poetry Events

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, opens a new window
A week-long event held in Elko, NV. According to the The Western Folklife Center, which organizes the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, “...cowboys, ranchers, rural and urban people have traveled en masse to this small high desert community, to join with friends, family and others who care about the rural West. Together, they listen to poetry and music, learn about cowboy culture in the U.S. and around the world, experience great art, watch western films, learn a craft, and gather to eat, drink and swap stories.”

Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering, opens a new window
This annual event “is now and always has been about gathering a group of poets and musicians who are doing their part to preserve the culture and heritage of the American West and providing them an opportunity to share their talent.” Originally located in Prescott, AZ with the help of the Sharlot Hall Museum, the Arizona Cowboy Poets Gathering has now relocated to Yavapai College.

Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering
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This event has occurred annually in Cochise County since 1993, and features both musicians and poets. The Gathering notes that “[t]he Cochise Cowboy Poetry And Music Gathering found its beginning in the vision of one man, John Shaver. While serving with the Sierra Vista, AZ Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Vista Arts and Humanities Committee, John joined others to look for an event that would foster an interest in Western Heritage as well as promote the community and increase tourism. In the spring of 1992, he brought a proposal to the City to sponsor a Cowboy Gathering. He gathered a team of dedicated volunteers and proceeded to produce the first Gathering.”
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Riley, Michael. In Arizona: Cowboy Poets. Time. November 25, 1985. Vol. 126, Issue 21. page 24. MasterFILE Complete, EBSCOhost, opens a new window

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, opens a new window | The Western Folklife Center, opens a new window

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