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National Cowboy Poetry Gathering celebrates 25 years this month
by Tribune Staff
Jan 15, 2009 | 752 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ELKO, Nev. — It's been 25 years since the first Cowboy Poetry Gathering and some people still think cowboy poetry is a contradiction in terms. The thousands of people who flock to Elko every January for what is now the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and the thousands more who attend similar events across the country, understand there is nothing contrary about it. They know it as poetry rooted in values shared by people who live close to the land, whose livelihoods depend on the vagaries of weather, fire and the price of hay. They appreciate it for its accessibility, truthfulness, humor and melancholy. It speaks to them, whether or not they are ranchers or cowboys. In fact, more than 40 percent of those who attend the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering travel from urban areas.

"People want to hear something authentic, from the heart and rooted in the land." explains Hal Cannon, founding director of the Western Folklife Center, which produces the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. "When we started in 1985, there was an energy that came out of cattle country, that took hold of talented and creative men and women from every generation, and brought a representative group together for the first time in Elko to express their art. The response was greater than anything we could have imagined; and it's stronger than ever today. People are writing and sharing poetry who might never have dared before. Had it not been for the Gathering, this creative energy from ranchers and cowboys may have never found voice."

Though poetry is the cornerstone of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the eight-day event has also come to feature music from the finest western and cowboy musicians in the United States and Canada. The Western Folklife Center has also invited representatives of cattle cultures from as far away as Australia and Mongolia, who bring with them their own traditions of music, poetry and storytelling to share with their American counterparts. This Silver Anniversary will be a reunion of more than 130 artists who have participated in the Gathering over the last quarter century, including 15 poets who participated in the first Gathering. Films, crafts, workshops, visual arts, prose, storytelling, dancing, regional foods, lectures and conversations about the contemporary West, all add to the depth and richness of this one-of-a-kind celebration.

Tickets and information are available at www.westernfolklife.org or by calling 888-880-5885. For press credential information, contact Darcy Minter at dminter@westernfolklife.org or 340-4240.
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