Cowboy Poetry and Western Life

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2006

 

Custer (South Dakota) September  

 

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September, 2006
Badger Clark Memorial Society Western Prose and Poetry Writers Workshop
   Custer, South Dakota


Photo by Nancy Curtis

 Report by Linda M. Hasselstrom (with 2005 photos by Jeri L. Dobrowski from a report here

 


The Badger Hole

 

Thirteen writers registered for the The Badger Clark Memorial Society's Western Prose and Poetry Writers Workshop September 28-20, 2006, in Custer, South Dakota. Linda M. Hasselstrom, who ranches and conducts writing retreats for women at Windbreak House near Hermosa, South Dakota, led the workshop.


Linda Hasselstrom reports on the activities:



Tour of the Badger Hole

The tour, led by volunteer tour guide John Murphy, provided us with a look at Badger Clark's daily life. Standing in the single large room where he wrote, read, and entertained visitors, we heard how he lived in a tiny one-room cabin for ten years while building the more substantial log structure he called "The Badger Hole." We saw photographs of his mother, father, and the stepmother who encouraged him to write. He built his fireplace of pink feldspar, and on the mantel lies a deer leg bone with a curious bulge. Badger found the deer with its leg broken, bound the limb and helped the deer survive until it had healed. Later, he found the animal dead and kept the bone as a souvenir of his medical efforts.


Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski, obtain permission for reproduction rights

In The Badger Hole, visitors get a sense of the discipline and structure of his life, and the conditions under which his poetry was written. By looking at the huge library he managed to tuck into the tiny log cabin, these
visiting writers could see the broad outlines of his thinking, and understand that a writer's mind doesn't confine itself only to iambics, but can explore any topic under the sun. Besides poems, Badger wrote hundreds of
letters to editors of newspapers, commenting on political and economic matters in South Dakota and the nation.

Without a telephone, computer—without even electricity or plumbing or running water in his house—Badger lived a thoughtful, productive life. He wrote with an old typewriter, creating poetry that was the first—and arguably still the best—to celebrate the cowboy's life and work.


Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski
obtain permission for reproduction rights

More than one of the writers who toured The Badger Hole mentioned feeling a welcoming, encouraging presence of Clark during solitary walks around the cabin. We listened to a portion of a tape of Badger Clark reading his work; hearing his voice reciting "A Cowboy's Prayer" was a thrill. No theatrics, no jokes, no off-color remarks: just poetry. We peered at his library, which holds hundreds of diverse books: Marie Sandoz's Crazy Horse; Great American Nature Writing by Joseph Wood Krutch; the poems of Robert Frost.


Photo by Jeri L. Dobrowski, obtain permission for reproduction rights

 

Movie, "Mountain Thunder"

  After the tour, we watched Mountain Thunder, a video written by Kenn Pierson and starring Daryl Patten, who portrayed Clark in talks all over the country and died at The Badger Hole during filming. The film provided participants an enactment of the way Clark recited his work, and a sense of its broad variety.

Workshop

The writing workshop lasted from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily, and included group and individual instruction. Students were given an opportunity to read their work in progress, and practiced writing both free verse and rhymed poetry as well as nonfiction. Hasselstrom performed and analyzed Clark's poetry, as well as reading and discussing the poetry of other writers such as Wallace McRae, Paul Zarzyski, and Peggy Simpson Curry. Hasselstrom, known in some writing circles as "The Handout Queen," read, discussed and distributed 25 separate handouts with information on writing, including how to analyze poetic rhythm, rhyme schemes, poetic meter, free verse structure, writing and revising, outlining an essay, exercises designed to lead the writer to poetic or prose writing, and how to perform in public.

Lunches and snacks for coffee breaks were furnished in the classroom by volunteer members of the Badger Clark Memorial Society.

Dinner and open microphone at Songbird Café

Dr. George Russell of Boulder, Colorado, a class participant, opened the open microphone session Friday night at the Songbird Café with songs and poems in the cowboy tradition. His work is excellent, and he provided
students with a dandy example of grace under pressure when the crowd grew noisy.

Summary

The workshop was a success; all the comments were positive. Writers began serious work on several pieces, and had time to show their work to each other, and to Hasselstrom, who wrote comments on student submissions.

We succeeded in our objectives, which included recognizing Badger Clark's quality as a writer, promoting the Memorial Society, and selling his books; promoting cowboy poetry and regional writing; demonstrating that recreation in the Black Hills can include quiet pursuits like writing; and encouraging regional writers to pursue their own goals, in prose as well as in rhymed and unrhymed poetry.

Hasselstrom has tentatively agreed to lead the workshop again next year if possible.


More at CowboyPoetry.com:

  See our features about Badger Clark, which include information about the Badger Clark Memorial Society,  books by and about Badger Clark, poetry and prose selections, and more.

  Read about Linda Hasseltrom and read some of her poetry in our feature here.

  See our feature about Linda Hasselstrom's Windbreak House writing retreats here.

 

 

 


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