October is almost here, which means summer slipped by us again, at least me. We are getting ready for new book releases from some great author, especially our Cowboy Poetry/Western section over at http://www.reddashboard.com (catalog page). I am proud to be posting some great poetry, fiction, and non-fiction from many of you out there, so keep ’em comin’ in!

It was brought to my attention that a poet, won’t mention any names, said that cowboy poetry (and they are in fact a cowboy(girl) poet in their own right), in order to be good, possibly acceptable only in certain circles, that words have to rhyme exactly– rhyme/time, but not rhyme/sign. What does that mean?¬†Wouldn’t we run out of words? Wouldn’t all cowboy poetry end up the same? How do you write perfect cowboy poetry?

Well I’ve read, and keep on reading as much as I can about this (I get asked often). Example is usually the best information. But the big problem with that is, it changes. Poetry has moved from proper meter and rhyme, to what they call free verse, to what can be jarring at times. We accept most forms here.

This site began as a way of allowing those like myself who write western themed pieces to be accepted, where no other journal existed. I’ll confess something here, because that is who I am, it used to irritate me to read poems where every line rhymed. There are poets out there who think that is what poetry is, every other line, or abab, aabb, and aabb ccdd stanzas end with a word that perfectly rhymes. I moved on. I realized it’s the story that matters, with some of that, and a little of other things.

Now I embrace so much more, and its made me a happier editor, a grateful reader, and other things. I love to read. I love to write. It has its healing benefits, but I won’t get into that. Back to Cowboy Poetry…

This genre started way before the West began to disappear, before it had literally been settled as we know it now, or my generation, in the nineteen-fifties through seventies– via television and other sources. Historical records show us it (cowboy poetry) was created as a song to sooth bovine and other livestock, mostly on the trail, when cattle had to be moved into the market place, dab smack in the middle of a town (hence cow-town). These long and harsh, usually unbearable weather, starry nights the cowpoke, ranch hands, and steer needed to ease their woas (fear of wolf and Native American attacks, possibly cattle rustlers).

So they sang (poems and songs are pretty close). If you know about song-writing, you know its a craft of measuring beats, and lyrics of sorts (Sonnets and other artforms of poetry started it all). To amuse themselves, cowpokes began to insert stories with a punch-line. They began to entertain each other around the campfire, on night patrol over the herds, and I assume as a competition of memory over time.

I’ve been taught songs are easy and catchy ways of remembering (by musician friends, I run open-mics), as a way of helping me recite them by memory, my poetry. Now most who lived that life, on the trail, unless you were the owner, even then they were struggling, it wasn’t an easy life–not many were educated. Education back then was a luxury, something that began to be forced upon the off-spring, as a way of calming the Wild West down. Not many knew how to spell. So….what I’m trying to say is, that words were chosen for memory and sounds. Things that rhyme just happened.

Not many wrote these things down, so it’s rare that you find a rule book of sorts from that era, on cowboy poetry and song-writing. But tradition keeps on, like it does in the western world. If you go to the well-remembered cowboy poets of the fifties (and earlier), read their work, study Baxter Black, buy a few cowboy poetry books, read the work. I do. And most improvise the rhyming. If you want to go on the radio and say, “this is how it is, or it ain’t what you think”, you can, but don’t scare our poets. I don’t want them thinking they have to re-write a whole slew of poetry to fit someones idea of perfect cowboy poetry.

I’m trying to keep this post under a million words, as I’ve learned in the writing business, yeah I’ve gotten a few checks for my work (does that make me an expert? Nope) we all have our idols, those who we study and learn from, but even they’d tell you, “I’m no expert, even with awards and such, just follow your heart, and study the craft.” And if you want to win an award, remember this (I’ve done competition as a chef, and won) it all boils down to, who’s at the judging table, it’s a matter of opinion. A matter of taste, and what they think is the right thing. That sort of bugs me, like being chosen for a poetry and fiction edition, anthology, or magazine issue, it all boils down to what someone likes at that moment.¬†Truth. But, if not just one person (judge) is doing the choosing, then you have a better chance. Also, being a good entertainer helps as well. Anyone can be a winner, and we are all still learning. As my big cowboy used to say, Daddy, ever’bodies a winner, there are no losers.

This has got me thinking, maybe it’s about time someone wrote a book about the art of cowboy poetry, or maybe not. Where’s Baxter Black when you need ’em? And then again, if someone did, then there will be someone out there who has a different opinion, it happens.

Keep reading. Keep writing, and keep sending us your wonderful work!

EAS

aka managing editor, Red Dashboard LLC Publishing (and all its ezines- Z-composition, Cowboy Poetry Press, and Annapurna Magazine),

a Texas poet,

and I’m adding ‘Rural Philosopher’ to my title (Baxter Black did it!)

October Issue Deadlines? November 28th, no exceptions, we will read that week, thanks!

editor@reddashboard.com

Read our submission guidelines, no poetry in the body of emails, please~

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