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photo by Randy Pertiet

photo by Randy Pertiet

Happy Saturday poets! Today, we have the pleasure of having Shanyn Silinski guest hosting behind the bar. Shanyn has been hanging out in the pub for a few years, so I know she will do a great job polishing the glasses and keeping yours full…smiles. Take it away Shanyn—

Cowboy poetry is an oral and lyrical tradition of the North American west. In a time when men, and women, worked in wide open spaces for long lonely days and nights. Their time around the fire, eating hot food from the chuckwagon, became a time of sharing. Not many could read, and books were as ‘scarce as hen’s teeth’ so the harmonies of field, church and battlefield were combined with the stories of the day into often impromptu performances of spoken and sung poetry.

Original Farm BoyThese cowboy poems celebrated the work of the day, memorialized those fallen to tragedy, made fun of situations you can only have when you combine cows, horses and ropes. They recalled lost loves, dear family members and they taught too. Taught gospel. Taught the western code.

Today Cowboy Poetry is crafted and shared worldwide. The traditions and styles have stayed quite true to their around the fire and singing to cows roots. Most are spoken, and some western singers have brought them to the radio in song.

Many ‘old cowboy songs’ were originally cowboy poetry – sprung from the lips of cowboys singing over their herds at night, or with their friends around the fire. Instruments were, by necessity, small and sturdy. Some had flutes, drums, mouth harps and there were a few guitars. Only in Hollywood were there such tough cowboyguitars that every cowboy crew had a balladeer. Instruments were more often seen in the shacks at line camps or in the bunk house of established outfits.

Those cowboys who followed the cattle trails, and those who drifted looking for work, had their imaginations, their voices and a lyrical tradition of storytelling that is uniquely western and cowboy. From Michael Martin Murphy’s interpretations of cowboy poetry in song to the original works of Baxter Black, there are many who practice cowboy poetry.

As for style and form – cowboy poetry is a spoken poetry primarily. It came to be printed in pulp books and in song sheets much later. It has rhyme and rhythm like you would see in oral story telling. Some poems are mournful while others humorous. Some are a single poet, others are stanzas from everyone around the fire.

Cowboy poetry isn’t just about cows and horses, although they play a big part. It is about relationships. About war. Peace. Faith. Morals. Love. Death. Hope and fear. Love of the job, and hatred too. It is western – real or imagined.

I invite you to check some of the links I’ve shared of my favorite cowboy poets, and some of my own cowboy poetry. Then think about a story you can tell in a lyrical fashion, like a cowboy at the fire after a day in the saddle.

You will notice some cowboy lingo – words, phrases and slang that those who work in that world understand. I was recently told after taking a friend to cowboy church with me that we needed a glossary of our lingo so she could know what we were talking about! See if you can spot some and use them. Or find some of your own!

Classic (Classic poems – you may have heard many of these as older songs.)
One of my personal favorites sung by Michael Martin Murphy.
Here are some modern cowboy poetry offerings, read down to Cow Attack. It is one of the funniest, and yet ‘it could happen’ poems.
And my version of cow attack, as inspired by Baxter Black:
Looking forward to chatting with you in comments and seeing your poetic offerings!


Thanks Shanyn—alright poets, time to write…write your fireside tale, write a poem including cowboys or an aspect of cowboy life, or how cowboys play out in your culture. If you are new here, let me tell you how it goes:

  • write a poem to the prompt and post it on your webpage
  • click the Mr Linky button below and enter your name and direct URL to your poem
  • you will also find others that have linked in using that same button, visit others telling them what you liked, what jumped out at you in their verse—we are a community–that communicates—don’t link drop
  • use the social media of your choice to promote yourself, if you add @dversepoets, it will make it easier for us to promote you as well.
  • have fun.