Sometimes Cowgirls Get a Notion To Sing

Montana Woman on Horseback, 1909

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cowgirl Poets

Women definitely held a major role, not only in the Old West, but also today, as ranching country faces the challenges of a new and changing world. Traditionally, women have been the more active participant in literary activities. Yet, in the world of Cowboy poets and self expression, women are definitely in the minority. Nonetheless, the woman of the open range can still spin a good yarn that will keep the audience tuned in and wanting for more.

A Cowgirl at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Men tend to dominate the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, but does not stop the women from stepping up to the microphone.

Honoring a Canadian Songwriter

Ian Tyson is a well-respected Canadian songwriter, who has received special honors and tributes at the National Cowboy Poetry gatherings. One of his most famous songs, which is written from a female point of view, is featured here by Suzy Bogguss.

Cowboy Poetry Week: “I Ride an Old Paint”

An American Paint Horse at a horse show in the Czech Republic, from Wikipedia, photo by Karakal

The Death of the Old West

Depending on who you talk to, rumors of the death of the Old West, may be somewhat exaggerated. Some say it died when the railroads started carrying beef on the hoof to places like Kansas City and Chicago. Others say it died when barbed wire was invented. Even today, there are those that infer that the Old West lasted until the automobile and paved roads became the norm for transportation. And finally, there are those that believe that the Old West may still exist in small pockets, where a few determined herders somehow manage to work what’s left of the open range.

The Search

Back during the Roaring Twenties, when speakeasies and Jazz music were the rage, Carl Sandburg went on a search. He was looking for genuine cowboy songs from the Old West. To do this properly, the young Midwesterner dropped out of college, crisscrossed the western mountains and prairies, looking for old remnants of years gone by. Somewhere in the high desert of New Mexico, he came across this beauty of a song.

What’s an Old Paint

First of all, an Old Paint is a type of horse common to the American West. Basically, it is a stock horse with a “pinto” pattern of color. The splotched color separates this breed from the solid, American quarter horse. Except for the color pattern, the two types of horses are similar in size, build and stock. Nonetheless, they are considered two separate breeds, which are both quite popular among American horsemen.

About the Song

Too many, “I Ride an Old Paint”, embodies the spirit of the Old West, as well as any folk song. There are many wonderful elements to the horseman’s tale, but perhaps the unusual method of burial is most telling about the special appeal for this Western lament. I seriously doubt that many (if any) cowhands were treated this way after leaving the world of the living. Yet still, there is a communion with the outdoor range, rarely expressed in Western music,when the corpse of the main character is tied to the back of his horse and then set loose into the bush.

Carl Sandburg at age 77

Who Was Carl Sandburg?

Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois in 1878. After serving in the military in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War, Carl returned to the Midwest, where he worked a variety jobs before he began publishing his own poetry in 1916. As an offshoot of his poetry, he put out a recording of folk songs (1927), gathered from traditional sources. This landmark album included such noted American classics, as the “Sloop John B” and “I Ride an Old Paint”. Over the years, the Old Paint song has one of the most recorded songs in American music.

 

If Jesus Was a Cowboy

April 21 marks the beginning of Cowboy Poetry Week and is also Easter Sunday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Kickoff

Today is not only Easter, but also the kickoff for Cowboy Poetry Week. Since the former event is well covered by the churches and press, I will devote the next seven days to the ridin’, ropin’ poets of the Old (and New) West.

If Jesus Was A Cowboy

The present calendar year presents a small dilemma and unique challenge for fans of the Cowboy poetry genre. Since the first day of the poetry week coincides with the Easter holiday, the question might be asked, “What if Jesus was a cowboy?” On a preliminary note, this sounds kind of fanciful, but in reality a variety of Country and Western singers have pondered the idea and over the years recorded tunes with similar titles.

The short list includes Jesus was a Cowboy (Brady Wilson Band), Jesus Was A Country Boy (Clay Walker) and God Must Be a Cowboy (Chris Ladoux). All of these songs are find and dandy for a listen on Easter Sunday, but instead, I have chosen a sincere and thoughtful tune from an obscure singer/songwriter named Kevin Reid. Furthermore, the song is performed by David Glen Eisley, a California rocker of some note.

Final Note

This blog has been also posted at my alternative site, Bluefoxcafe, which can also be found at WordPress.com. I am currently undertaking an experiment to decide which place gets more traffic.

Super Bowl Haiku

Mt. Fuji and The Sea off Satta by Utagawa Hiroshige
Mt. Fuji and The Sea off Satta by Utagawa Hiroshige

Applying poetry to sports is not an unheard of event, but it is a literary activity that is not usually applied to football. However, an opportunity recently arose to write a piece of Haiku about the upcoming Super Bowl, which features a contest between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers. The popular sporting event is scheduled on Sunday and will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas barring any unusual weather events or meteorites dropping out of the sky.

Haiku is an interesting form of short poetry, originally associated with Japan, but now popular in the English-speaking world as well. In this type of writing a short poem is created using just three lines of text. Each line has a designated number of syllables and rhyming isn’t necessary. The first and last lines each contain five syllables, while the middle phrase bears seven. Traditionally, Haiku portrays two juxtaposing images, which when combined, should reveal irony, humor and awareness.

In Japan, Haiku was often used to express some of the tenets of  Zen awareness, along with detached observations and comments on everyday life. In America, Haiku has become a popular method of reflecting our national past time, baseball, but associating this poetic structure with football is much less common. Perhaps this will change in the future.

Recently, I wrote several Haiku in honor of Super Bowl LXV, which is due to be played early on Sunday evening. One was published at Associated Content and the other two I have included with this post. Hope you enjoy.

Poem  #1

As the pack returns

Strong resistance heeds their path

The trophy is theirs

Poem #2

Heads clash in Dallas

The sound echoes everywhere

Then there is silence

A Few Worrds About Charles Bukowski

a self portrait of Charles Bukowski at work

Not too long ago, I discovered a stack of about 50 copies of Ham and Rye, by Charles Bukowski, sitting in one of the local bookstores that is located in our downtown area in Portland, Maine. No, this great American writer did not all of a sudden find a surge of hidden popularity, here along the rocky coastline of Maine, but rather his classic novel was required reading at one of the local universities and so this bookstore had found it necessary to stockpile one of “Hank’s” more important works of fiction.

Still, since that great day of discovery, I have found a new fascination with the big boozer, which has been spurred on by two DVD’s of his movies (Barfly and Factotem), along with a lengthy biography (Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life by Howard Sounes) and several readings of his poetry, which have come my way courtesy of “You Tube”.

All in all, it is a fascinating record and literary achievement by one of America’s most loved and eccentric authors. I suppose now the late Mr. Bukowski is reaching that stage in his literary career, where he will be become more of a standard fare among college students and scholars.

From what little I have sampled of his poetry, I have found it to be quite humorous and profound all at the same time. In fact there are some great links on You Tube to various people reading his poems. There are even some video clips of Bukowski reading his own poetry. Here’s one of him reading, “Bluebird”, (audio only). And here’s another link to the poem, “The Tragedy of the Leaves”. Both of these come from You Tube.

Charles Bukowski at work

But unfortunately there was a very dark side to “Henry” or  “Hank” as he was often called. The two films barely scratched the surface, but Howard Sounes, travels far into the alcoholic and sometimes violent world of  Bukowski, for it seems that not only did the poet have a problem with alcohol, he also had a problem of violent fights and feuds with some of his female acquaintances, especially when he was in an inebriated state. Some of these altercations  left Bukowski in the slammer for a few days

His life story is something else. Born in Germany, Charles immigrated to America with his parents, eventually finding a home in the L.A. area. As a teenager he had an extreme case of acne that is hard to fathom and so his main solace became the public library in Los Angeles. From a childhood spent coming of age during the height of the depression Charles developed a wit, an attitude and a style that would eventually make him a much read poet and novelist, known the world over. From what I have read and that is not very much his literary efforts are well worth the time invested.