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Darrell Arnold, respected poet and editor and publisher of Cowboy Magazine, has considered opinions and valuable advice about writing cowboy poetry.

We present his essay, "Add Polish to Your Poetry," below.

We're also pleased to have another essay by Darrell Arnold, "No Excuse for Lazy Poets," posted here.

Your opinions are welcome.  Email us.

See our separate feature about Darrell Arnold here, which includes some of his poetry.


Find additional articles about writing, performing, and related subjects listed here.

More about Darrell Arnold

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Darrell Arnold was born and raised in the town of La Veta, in southern Colorado. At the time of his birth, in 1946, that region of the state was primarily ranching country. Though Arnold did not grow up on a ranch, all his friends and neighbors were ranchers, and his own family raised cattle, hogs, rabbits, and chickens, and used horses for calf roping, barrel racing, trail riding, and hunting trips. Arnold had frequent opportunities to day-work with the many neighboring ranches.

After completing a college education in wildlife biology and serving four years in the United States Air Force, Arnold tried many occupations before finding his way into journalism. In 1983, he became a staff writer for The Texas Longhorn Journal, and in 1985 he accepted a position as associate editor at Western Horseman magazine.

In 1990, Arnold started COWBOY MAGAZINE, a publication dedicated to ranching and the working ranch cowboy. Through the fall of 2008, COWBOY MAGAZINE was the in-print voice of the working ranch cowboy. The magazine is no longer being published.

Besides COWBOY MAGAZINE, Arnold has published six books: In the Shadow of the Peaks; Cowboys und Ranches Huete; Cowboy Poultry Gatherin'; The Cowboy Kind; Good Medicine: Humorous Stories and Poems from COWBOY MAGAZINE; and Tales From Cowboy Country: Stories from COWBOY MAGAZINE.

Darrell Arnold's recitation of his poem, Cowboy Poultry Gatherin', is featured on The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Two (2007).


See our feature about Darrell Arnold here, which includes some of his poetry and more information about his books and COWBOY MAGAZINE.


(an essay by Darrell Arnold)  


Here is a simple technique that cowboy poets can use to make their poems just a little better. Throughout the course of writing one poem, try to avoid using the same rhyme sound more than one time. I'll try to illustrate with a simple example:

I rode to the top of the hill one day
And saw the grandest scene,
T'was hundreds of red-and-white cattle agraze
In a valley of brilliant green

In every rhyme throughout the rest of your poem, avoid the "een" sound. You've used it once. Be fresh and original and don't use it any more.

Let's say, later in the poem, you have another rhyme, and what first comes to your mind is:

We cut out the bulls and headed them home.
The one with horns was keen
To turn back around and to go on the fight.
"Watch out, Buck, that horned bull is mean."

It might tell your story, but you've used the "een" sound for the second time in your poem. Find a substitute, something like the following:

We cut out the bulls and headed them home
The one with horns got mad
"Look out Buck," I warned, "cuz he wants to turn back.
I know that bull, Pard, and he's bad."

If you write 40 stanzas, then use 40 different sounds in your rhymes. Your poem will be better for it. It may not be easy, but it can be done. It  just might take a little more work. As the Riders in the Sky say, "It may not be the easy way, but it is the cowboy way."

2008, Darrell Arnold, All rights reserved
This essay may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.




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See our feature about Darrell Arnold here, which includes some of his poetry and more information about his books and COWBOY MAGAZINE.







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