Texas Cowboy Poetry Week is an annual event whose dates are subject to change as per the organizers’ wishes and this year it will be observed from March 22 to 23. While the original Texas gathering ended in February 2019 after 33 years of entertainment, The National Cowboy Poetry Week and Lone Star Cowboy Poetry Gathering (also in Texas) are still going strong. People come from all over the U.S. and other countries to be able to experience amazing music, cool workshops, delicious food, community, and of course, cowboy poetry.
History of Texas Cowboy Poetry Week
Back in the Wild Wild West, cowboys had lonely jobs. They had to herd cattle, work on the ranch, etc., often for days or even months at a time, and often without seeing anybody during this period. They’d even have to herd cattle over miles, all by their lonesome. Official data says almost 25 million cattle were driven from Texas to other places like Kansas and Nebraska from the 1860s until the 1910s.
It’s been told that the tradition of telling stories on this journey began then, as the cowboys made their long and arduous journeys. The stories became songs, then poetry, and soon evolved into today’s ‘cowboy poetry’. Then came technology, and with it, a reduced need to make the very journeys that spawned cowboy poetry. And so, the entire genre shifted gears, going from a simple necessity to a way to keep cowboy poetry alive. Another reason people so quickly adopted the memorialization of cowboy poetry — so many movies and shows turned the cowboy into a rough-and-tough lone ranger, a description quite different from the reality of cowboys everywhere.
Cowboy poetry started appearing in many places — diner menus, agricultural magazines, feed store calendars, and other places frequented by cowboys — all through the 20th Century. This genre gained so much popularity that in 1985, a special event — the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering or the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering — was founded. A bunch of people interested in cowboy poetry, including some local poets, decided to create a space where those in this lifestyle could gather together, share their work, and reminisce about their lifestyle. From this first Gathering came many more such events, including the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, amongst others. All these years later, this Gathering, now called National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, plus every other cowboy poetry week, has become a widespread celebration of all things cowboy and the West.
Texas Cowboy Poetry Week timeline
The oldest known anthology of cowboy poetry is compiled into one book – the 'Songs of the Cowboys'.
The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering starts and inspires other celebratory events that showcase cowboy poetry.
A cowboy poetry event called the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering is held immediately after the Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering, at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas.
Many popular cowboy poems come along during this time, earning this period the moniker 'Golden Age' or 'Classic Era'.
Texas Cowboy Poetry Week FAQs
Where is the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering held?
The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering usually occurs at the Western Folklife Center in downtown Elko, Nevada.
Is Cowboy a profession?
Yes, ‘cowboy’ is indeed a profession for a person who herds cattle and performs other ranch-related jobs, mostly on North American ranches.
Are there still real cowboys?
Cowboys are still a very essential part of ranches, rodeos, and cattle drives across the western parts of the U.S., and even in New England.
Texas Cowboy Poetry Week Activities
Listen to some cowboy poetry
Cowboy poetry has been well-recorded through the ages. You can pick from single-author books, anthologies, or even recordings of poetry readings.
Give cowboy poetry a try
Ever been to a ranch and known about the ‘cowboy’ life? Then why not try your hand at writing — and performing — some cowboy poetry? You can use past and present cowboy poets as inspiration.
Check out a cowboy poetry session
Multiple states around the U.S. host live poetry sessions. Check out which ones suit you best, then go ahead and book your tickets.
5 Facts You Didn’t Know About Cowboy Poetry
The first celebration
There were only 1,000 attendees to listen to the 40 poets at the very first National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
Cowboy poetry doesn't need cowboys
You don't have to be a cowboy to write poetry of this genre — like ‘The Ride of Paul Venarez’ written by non-cowboy Eben E. Rexford — but you should have a clear understanding of this life.
This poetry is often traditional
At least when following rhymes and other rules of the poetry genre; the themes also center around the cowboy way of life.
It has inspired popular show tunes
The popular cowboy song, 'Home on the Range,' was inspired by a cowboy poem, 'My Western Home' written by Dr. Brewster M. Higley.
Celebrating more than poetry
Celebrations at cowboy poetry events are becoming increasingly popular for their workshops and live demos that show people how to dance the two-step, braid rawhide, tell digital stories, and more.
Why We Love Texas Cowboy Poetry Week
A glimpse behind the curtain
We love John Wayne, but we love the realistic peek at cowboy life even more. What else other than cowboy poetry can give us such a fun crash course on life at a ranch?
It inspires people to write
Cowboy poetry can be funny, serious, dramatic, and talk about so many different things. It encourages just about everyone in this lifestyle to take a shot at writing a line or two.
Builds a community
Gatherings like these bring together everyone with an interest in this lifestyle. It attracts diverse people who unite for a common cause – celebrating cowboy poetry.
Texas Cowboy Poetry Week dates