Welcome to my personal blog. It’s contents are eclectic and devoted to personal notes and feelings. Please enjoy it.

For his rope twirling acts, Will Rogers called himself the Poet Lariat.
When Badger Clark was appointed the first Poet Laureate of South Dakota, he sent the Governor a thank you signed "Your Poet Lariat."
Cowboys of the mid-1800s, most uneducated, wrote as they rode, capturing the rhythm of the trail, pacing themselves with consistent meter, and using end rhymes to assist in remembering their poems.
The term "Poet Lariat" was first used by Mark Twain in his book Innocents Abroad.
Real cowboy poetry has consistent meter (as in the traditional ballad) and true rhymes (as love/dove). -- Clark Crouch

Writing Cowboy Poetry

Writing a cowboy poem is a greater challenge than writing a free verse poem. Rather than expressing feelings or dwelling on the esoteric, a western or cowboy poem usually tells a story. Beyond that, tradition says that the cowboy poem has four essential qualities:

a western or cowboy theme in a modern or historic setting,

consistent meter throughout (such as 8-6-8-6 syllables in a four line     ballad stanza),

a consistent rhyming plan (such as AAAA, ABAB, ABCB, or AABB and which is the same for all stanzas), and

true rhymes (such as love/dove but not love/clove or Sam/rams).

Here’s an example of a three stanza poem which respects that tradition:

One Regret

To be a cowboy for the brand,
he lived a lonely life.
The only true regret he has…
he never had a wife.

Oh, he had a bunch of chances
but he just passed ’em by
’cause he was havin’ too much fun
to give that life a try.

So today he’s old and lonely
just waitin’ for the end.
This cowboy has no wife or kin
on which he can depend.

Pamela Howland, Pianist

The great western migration brought with it an appreciation of music and one of the first structures in many small towns was an opera house. There the settlers, ranchers, and even the cowboys could hear and glory in the magnificence of musical expression. All that hasn’t really changed although it is frequently digital music served over the internet and delivered through such modern amazements as the Amazon Echo.

Today as this one time cowboy listened to Pamela Howland, a wonderful pianist who I first met when she was a teenager, I was reminded again of the importance of music to our culture.

Pamela’s domination of the piano and her exceptional interpretation of classical music leaves one filled once again with appreciation and awe, eager for more. To hear such talent gives cause to reflect on our past, a cultural tie back to that age when music was a life necessity and was so highly valued by our ancestors in the great American west.

Know It All Society

Have you noticed the great lack of knowledge and expertise among the comments published on the web? Usually hiding behind assumed names, many commenters offer their words of “wisdom” on any and every topic and glory in going for quantity over quality. Our organization, the Know It All Society, was created for their benefit. Membership is free …

Writing Free Verse

There is no uniform definition of poetry. True, there are traditional poetic forms (ballad, haiku, limerick, quatrain, sonnet, villanelle, etc.) which must be respected. But, in general, if you say a bit of your writing is a poem, it is!

Hopefully, without upsetting some friends in academia or others who are authors of some excellent modern poetry, here are four steps to easily write a modern poem in free verse…no meter or rhymes to get in your way.

1. Write one or more paragraphs of text expressing your feeling, an idea, a concern, or anything of interest to you. An example:

The day awakened, the dawn’s pink growing on the billowing white clouds. A day of promise and a tiny daisy bowed it’s head in welcome.

2. Now copy your paragraph leaving out capitalization and punctuation.

the day awakened dawn’s pink growing on billowing white clouds a day of promise and a tiny daisy bowed it’s head in welcome

3. Then break the resulting text into uneven lines at carefully selected break points to enhance your thoughts. As the poet, you have license to add, delete, or alter words (or even introduce empty lines) as needed to best express and reinforce your concept.

the day awakened
dawn’s pink
on billowing white clouds

a day of promise
as a tiny daisy
bowed it’s head
in welcome

4. Finally, celebrate your success, maybe by lifting a cup of tea or a glass of wine in tribute to Walt Whitman, the acclaimed father of free verse!

You are a poet!

Federal Retirement Annuities

Federal Annuities, including Social Security, should be indexed to the rate of inflation, not to a mythical shopping cart! That would protect and stabilize the purchasing power of annuities as promised to Social Security payees and other federal annuitants.

The average rate of inflation has been 3.5% over the past 35 years or so, but the cost of living index (COL) used for Federal Retirement Annuities is based on a mythical shopping cart. The contents of that cart do not necessarily reflect actual purchase patterns of retirees and the COL adjustment this year was zero even though inflation has continued. In this, the government, using an artificial index instead of actual inflation rates to compute the cost of living, is not living up to it’s commitment to protect the purchasing power of annuities.

In one annuitant’s case, under the COL index, his annuity has doubled over some 30 years. However, his annuity should be triple the original amount in order for him to enjoy the same purchasing power he had when the annuity started! So every year he is forced to dig deeper into his modest emergency savings just to keep up with real price increases in rent, utilities, food, etc.  His problem is that those emergency savings will soon be gone; then what does he do?

It’s a sad way to treat folks who have worked and contributed to their retirement plan only to lose the purchasing power of their earned annuity!

Poor Fish!

Some of my cowboy poet friends are gettin’ criticized for promotin’ their poetry. Seems like those critics just don’t appreciate the reality of doin’ business.

The fish it never cackles ’bout
Its million eggs or so
The hen, one egg she lays
And you should hear her crow
We crown the hen but spurn the fish
Which leads me to surmise
Don’t hide your light, but blow your horn
It pays to advertise
                                         ~~ Author unknown

A Poetic Folk Art Form

Several of my cowboy poet/musician associates are appearing with me in Redmond, Washington on Saturday afternoon, June 20th. Our appearance reminds me that, unlike the multitudes of “modern poets,” we are among the few who offer a marketable service…a truly American, authentic, folk art which is entertaining, educational, and rewarding for both performers and audiences.

Those who are true to the art form…western theme, traditional poetic form and meter, and true rhymes…appear (very frequently for paid gigs) at county fairs, cowboy gatherings, retirement and nursing homes, service clubs, etc. We have reason to be proud of our great American heritage: remembering, preserving, sharing, and celebrating our western and cowboy heritage and the great traditions which that heritage embodies!

For those who are performers, please be true to that heritage, deposit your generous honoraria, and rejoice in your participation in a unique poetic art form which had it’s beginning in the American west in the mid-1800s.

What is Cowboy Poetry?

What is cowboy poetry? Only one poetic form merits that distinction. It has three qualities:

a western or cowboy theme,
true line-end rhymes (such as ABAB or ABCB or ABAC), and
consistent meter throughout measured by syllable count (such as 8-6-8-6).

Poems which do not have all three qualities should be called something other than cowboy poetry…perhaps “western poetry” since there is no tradition for poetry by that name.

The cowboy poem, as a truly American literary form, originated in the West as cowboys rode the range in the mid-1800s capturing the rhythm of hooves on the trail. Without paper and pencil (many had no education), they wrote “in their mind” using both meter and rhyme to help them remember their verses. The poetic form is a true folk tradition which should be respected and preserved!

Who is a Cowboy Poet?

Who or what is a Cowboy Poet? Remembering back to my youthful conversations with The Badger, this might be the answer:

There are only two authentic varieties. You are a cowboy poet only if:

you are actually a cowboy and a poet (regardless of poetic style)…the emphasis is on your profession, or

you may or may not actually be a cowboy but write true cowboy poetry…the emphasis is on the genre.

One who does not qualify as a cowboy poet might better be called a western poet, a generic designation which has no historic or traditional form.

Badger Clark qualified as a cowboy poet in both categories. He was an Arizona cowboy for four years and, overall, his poems were true to the tradition of cowboy poetry as to theme, rhyme, and meter.